When the coronavirus struck in 2020, governments followed different paths. Some, like the Scandinavian countries, took a relatively realistic approach and did not pretend the virus could be kept out. Others, especially island countries, adopted a “zero covid” strategy and went to extreme lengths to try to keep the virus at bay. This always struck me as ludicrous. It is hard enough to keep out illegal immigrants, but a virus? Forget about it. Moreover, if extreme isolation is the price of avoiding the virus, as in Australia and New Zealand, what are they going to do? Keep it up forever? Impossible.
These thoughts were triggered by this tweet by The Economist:
Like a dam holding back a flood, the longer a region’s defences hold up, the worse the resulting disaster once they fail https://t.co/kkFbG61Qbl
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) April 12, 2022
The Economist’s point is well taken, and frankly was predictable as of the Spring of 2020. But what of the other countries that tried to achieve “zero covid”? I won’t even talk about China, whose numbers I don’t trust and which right now is apparently starving its citizens in Shanghai in a desperate attempt to achieve the impossible. Let’s take Australia, which went full fascist in a vain effort to exclude a virus from its shores (the following charts are from Our World In Data):
Cumulative death numbers for these countries show the same pattern. With extreme measures you can delay the onset of a virus, at tremendous cost to your population in terms of mental health, other aspects of physical health, and economic well-being. But in the end, the effort is futile. Governments that embarked on this foolhardy path should pay a steep price, and the moral should not be lost on anyone next time a novel virus comes around.