The thing about the lockdown, as a thirty-something year old man, is that it’s a lot like purgatory probably is. Think about it: You get to sit at home, on the couch, in front of the television all day long.
But there’s no sport on.
The creator himself could hardly have devised a more frustrating holiday from normal life.
And the bad news? It could last a lot longer than even the most pessimistic amongst you think:
“We projected that recurrent wintertime outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 will probably occur after the initial, most severe pandemic wave. Absent other interventions, a key metric for the success of social distancing is whether critical care capacities are exceeded. To avoid this, prolonged or intermittent social distancing may be necessary into 2022.”
“Prolonged OR intermittent.”
In other words, there’s no guarantee we’re getting back to normal any time soon, full stop.
The consequences of a two year lockdown are almost impossible to quantify, and would probably irreversibly change the western world as we know it. If you buy that, for example (and you’re fairly brave if you’re going to dispute Harvard’s brainiest) then it probably does mean an end to professional sport as we have it today. Even if “prolonged social distancing” doesn’t quite equate to the current global state of enforced house arrest for people, it’s impossible to imagine a scenario where 50,000 people from Liverpool and Dublin are crowding into Anfield to watch that dreadful team of theirs do battle with our heroes in red from Manchester. It’s just not going to happen under any form of “social distancing”.
Public transport systems, also, will be effectively useless in this scenario. The preferred London and New York approach of cramming hundreds of thousands of people into tin cans underneath those cities every day? Not a runner. Airline travel will have to continue to be vastly restricted, meaning that many if not most airlines will simply go bust.
You can probably kiss goodbye to most pubs and nightclubs, permanently, also.
There’s no point going on about it, you get the picture.
We’re already talking, on the basis of the six weeks or so we’ve been in lockdown to date, about the worst global depression since the industrial revolution:
The global economy will contract by 3% this year as countries around the world shrink at the fastest pace in decades, the International Monetary Fund says.
The IMF described the global decline as the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
It said the pandemic had plunged the world into a “crisis like no other”.
The Fund added that a prolonged outbreak would test the ability of governments and central banks to control the crisis.
The bit in bold matters a lot. Ultimately, there’s a limit to how much money you can print before money itself becomes basically meaningless. We’re looking at a sustained period of record unemployment and a collapse in tax revenues, at the very moment Governments are required to spend like never before.
In the UK, and the USA, there’s already talk of “easing the restrictions”:
That was not the view of two groups of governors, one on the East Coast and one on the West, who announced Monday they were forming multistate committees to explore how and when to lift the restrictions.
Asked at a news conference whether state leaders should maintain control over that process, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said, “Seeing as how we had the responsibility to close the state down, I think we probably have the primary responsibility for opening it up.”
The restrictions will, of course, be eased, and relatively soon (as in, within the next 6-8 weeks). But the problem will then be what happens when that occurs. If there’s a spike in cases as people attempt to go back to normal, we’ll be back in lockdown again very quickly.
That’s the nub of the Harvard argument. As they say, in science-speak:
“Even in the event of apparent elimination, SARS-CoV-2 surveillance should be maintained since a resurgence in contagion could be possible as late as 2024.”
In other words, we’re going to be fighting this thing for a long time to come. A very long time.
Life’s not going back to how we knew it, any time soon, unfortunately.