Anti-lockdown – Interesting arguments

I have previously written how often the popular arguments against lockdown are made poorly, relying on a misleading interpretation of the data and science.

I do think there are interesting arguments against lockdown to be made. To add balance, I want to share seven arguments which I may not agree with, but I think entirely valid to debate, and I give a few links to articles

  1. The risk to life that Covid poses is outweighed by the need to preserve the economy

This is the most common argument presented and you will find plenty of examples. I have explained why I think this is a false choice.

  1. The risk to life that Covid poses is outweighed by the need to preserve civil liberties

A straightforward ethical argument which I think is likely a widespread factor driving opinion. Younger people and those from the left are far more likely to think in terms of care, protection for society and the involvement of the state. Older people and those on the right are more likely to think in terms of individual liberties and freedom.

Here is an article in the Telegraph that makes this case

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/06/06/tell-mps-not-name-horrified-social-experiment/

  1. I am willing to take the risk

This is similar to the above argument but here the emphasis on individual wants, not a judgement on what society should do. This could be a young person who does not want to have their life infringed upon for no gain to themselves, or older people who value their freedom over reducing their health risks. The Cummings case is an example of someone prioritising themselves and ignoring the impact on broader society. Here is an article in the Independent making this case.

https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/voices/coronavirus-death-toll-lockdown-guidance-quarantine-boris-johnson-a9551731.html

  1. Covid has been prioritised and it has led to an overall worse health outcome for the population

    Lockdown has seen numbers of people attending GP and hospitals fall dramatically. This is leading to many serious conditions being missed or diagnosed late and with fewer ICU beds available, treated less successfully. The overall health outcome to the population has not been considered on balance.

Here is an article from the Guardian with an example of the negative consequences

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/29/extra-18000-cancer-patients-in-england-could-die-in-next-year-study

  1. Too blunt a tool

In the UK, it is hard to defend the lockdown as a well thought through set of policy measures so it’s very much open to criticism on this front.

  1. Shield the high-risk people

The idea here is that for a lot of the population the risks are far lower and if the at-risk people could be separated and kept safe, then the larger population could possibly achieve herd immunity. This sounds very reasonable in theory, but I have not yet seen a proposal of how it could be done in practice. For example, separating old people to live apart from their families is basically care homes which we have seen does not work, and there are issues with mandating only a portion of citizens to be not allowed to leave their homes.

I have read lots of articles advocating this policy but have not found one which explains how it might be done.

  1. No vaccine coming

If we do not believe that we are likely to get a vaccine, then what are we locking down for?
Either we should go much harder and act like New Zealand and eradicate it.
Or we should accept that this is a virus we will live with for a long time and that life is just a lot riskier than it used to be. This is a key factor which gets very little attention.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24632804-000-why-itll-still-be-a-long-time-before-we-get-a-coronavirus-vaccine/

Where science can help

What I observe are far too many arguments where one person argues that the mortality rate is very high and we are likely to see a second wave, and the other argues that it is very low and that there will not be a second wave. They have each found “experts” on the internet who support their view. I do not think they are having a legitimate debate about the science but instead using it as a proxy battle for their underlying ideological differences.

For example,

  • If you believe that the risks of Covid outweigh the cost to civil liberties because the mortality rate is 10% then the science can say that you have incorrect starting assumptions. What do you think if the mortality rate is 1% with a large skew to older people?
  • If you believe that the cost to civil liberties are greater than the risks of Covid because the risks are similar to seasonal flu, then the science can say that you have incorrect starting assumptions. What do you think if the mortality rate is 1% with a large skew to older people?

Can we just follow the science?

I hope this had made clear that following the science is important but only takes us so far. What remains are all the ethical, logistical and political issues that science can inform but never resolve. These are the debates we need to be having as a society.

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