Since March, in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, the economy has ground to a halt, society has ceased to function as it did before, and our day-to-day lives have become unrecognisable from our once hectic schedules.
Extraordinary though the circumstances may have been (and continue to be), whether it be in state-mandated recessions or enforced mask-wearing and social distancing, the emphasis must turn away from the pandemic and towards restoring “normality” and a well-functioning economy.
The death toll from COVID-19 is horrendous but to suggest that we must press pause once more, in a futile and costly exercise to contain the virus, is obscene.
The permanent economic scarring – the irreversible loss of output – that will come as a result of any further lockdown measures will only become more pronounced. This is not simply an aberration on a GDP chart, this would mean permanently lower living standards and a prolonged period of higher unemployment for the population at large.
On a microeconomic level, joblessness and relative poverty are both associated with higher prevalence of chronic health conditions and thus premature mortality.
Undoubtedly, in a virus-stricken era, where any prioritisation of the economy is seen as being crude or uncaring, health-based arguments may prove to be more potent. It is undeniable that COVID-centrism in health policy and in public attitudes will bare long-term implications for diagnostics and wider health outcomes.
In the context of a burden-sharing public health system, the British population have become so terrified of putting pressure on our sacred national health institution that cancers go undiagnosed and treatments for serious medical conditions are postponed or cancelled entirely.
In fact, a study by UCL and DATA-CAN suggested that there could be a 20% rise in cancer-related deaths in the next twelve months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated governmental response.
In such a case it will be those very same frontline NHS workers, who have been smothered in extensive public adoration and hero-worshipping, that will be left to pick up the pieces.
Alas, it will also be NHS workers who will have to deal with the expected surge in depression and anxiety that lockdowns and media-sponsored fearmongering have exacerbated.
Many children have missed out on five months of education and, in many cases, have only been offered meagre alternative provisions. Whilst those fortunate enough to attend private schools will have been well-equipped with interactive Zoom lessons and ample virtual contact with teachers, children from disadvantaged backgrounds will have had a very different experience.
With extensive educational disparities drawn strongly along the lines of family income, the costs of further delays to school reopening will be devastating for the opportunities of the most underprivileged in society.
It is abundantly clear that, with the vaccine war in full swing, the coronavirus is not a thing of the past. In which case it is something we ought to be collectively weary of, but not allow it to impede on the resumption of “normality”.
It is entirely irresponsible for the government to keep threatening to use lockdown measures with complete disregard for the demolition of consumer confidence that such rhetoric induces in an already highly “COVID-anxious” population.
Likewise, to be told other hospitality and leisure facilities may have to close, or their reopening delayed, to facilitate the reopening of schools would be nothing short of a tragedy for business owners up and down the country.
Many have worked tirelessly to make their businesses “COVID-secure” and in doing so have helped to kick-start the economy and brighten the communities they serve. Whilst it is imperative that schools reopen fully and without exception come September, the government’s suggested trade-offs are intolerable and wholly out of proportion.
Ultimately, we have reached a stage where we must learn to continue our lives alongside the coronavirus. We are now at a point where any proposed cure has become far worse than the disease itself.
The ideas represented in this article are not reflective of the values held by UCL Conservatives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely representative of the author.