Our chil­dren and the­ir chil­dren will be pay­ing for the bad deci­sions made by our senior medi­cal scien­ce and poli­ti­cal leaders for deca­des to come

By Brian Giesbrecht
Senior Fellow
Fron­tier Cen­tre for Public Policy


As this wave of the COVID-19 pan­de­mic winds down, we sho­uld ask honest questions abo­ut our respon­se to it.

Altho­ugh an accu­ra­te asses­sment of the lock­downs – clo­sing scho­ols and busi­nesses – is mon­ths away, we need a plan to respond to a like­ly second fall wave.

The Eco­no­mist publi­shed an essay deta­iling how clo­sing pri­ma­ry scho­ols has pro­ba­bly cau­sed life­long harm to much of the stu­dent popu­la­tion whi­le wide­ning the ine­qu­ali­ty gap.

Gro­wing amo­unts of rese­arch sug­gest that clo­sing scho­ols was a very bad idea. An Austra­lian stu­dy shows that COVID-19 doesn’t sic­ken many chil­dren, and chil­dren are not effec­ti­ve spre­aders of it.

Swe­den didn’t clo­se the­ir pri­ma­ry scho­ols, yet expe­rien­ced no signi­fi­cant infec­tion pro­blem in either the­ir stu­dent or teacher populations.

It was a major mista­ke to clo­se down pri­ma­ry scho­ols, so shouldn’t we reopen them now?

Also, was it neces­sa­ry to shut down all ‘non-essen­tial’ businesses?

Swe­den left busi­ness owners and custo­mers to make the­ir own deci­sions. Our lock­down-and-stay-home appro­ach dama­ged, if not ban­krup­ted, many small busi­nesses. Swe­den left busi­nesses intact and didn’t need the huge govern­ment spen­ding that will leave lock­down coun­tries with seve­re­ly dama­ged economies.

As for its num­bers of deaths, Swe­den has done no bet­ter or wor­se than lock­down countries.

Isn’t Sweden’s poli­cy of leaving most deci­sions to the indi­vi­du­al, rather than using sta­te con­trol, pro­ving to be a bet­ter approach?

One area whe­re Swe­den and Cana­da both failed is with respect to the elder­ly and vul­ne­ra­ble. Thank­ful­ly, this virus has main­ly spa­red the young, but much more has to be done to tho­se now known to be vulnerable.

And wasn’t the expe­ri­ment of quaran­ti­ning the heal­thy popu­la­tion (and put­ting the wor­king popu­la­tion on welfa­re) a mas­si­ve mistake?

It’s best to pro­tect tho­se either vul­ne­ra­ble or wishing to self-iso­la­te, but allow heal­thy people to deci­de how much per­so­nal risk they want to take.

Like­ly the­re will be a second wave of COVID-19, sin­ce the cur­rent lock­down appro­ach mere­ly delays the virus.

We’re nowhe­re near to achie­ving the desi­red herd immu­ni­ty (whe­re the virus dies off becau­se so many people have reco­ve­red from the dise­ase and are immu­ne from cat­ching it aga­in). Swe­den, clo­ser to achie­ving herd immu­ni­ty, will like­ly not suf­fer as much as we will.

The good news is that this virus doesn’t appe­ar to be near­ly as deadly as first tho­ught. In fact, heal­thy people might have abo­ut as much to fear from get­ting this virus as they do in get­ting the regu­lar flu.

It seems we were badly sca­red by wil­dly inac­cu­ra­te models.

Experts like Dr. John Ioan­ni­dis and Prof. Micha­el Levitt of Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty saw the mista­kes in the fore­cast of two mil­lion Ame­ri­can deaths from the beginning.

But our senior medi­cal scien­ce and poli­ti­cal leaders, who lar­ge­ly repre­sent the last of the boomer class, didn’t listen. Did we panic and fol­low the wrong ‘experts’?

Going for­ward, we sho­uld keep our heads and fol­low the prag­ma­tic Swe­dish approach.

We have, and are, pay­ing a heavy pri­ce. Our chil­dren and the­ir chil­dren will be pay­ing for it for deca­des. We baby boomers will not be here to watch its end.

Was our panic respon­se the boomers’ last gasp?

Brian Gies­brecht, a reti­red jud­ge, is a senior fel­low at the Fron­tier Cen­tre for Public Policy.

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