• Arwa Hanin Elrayess

So...what's next? Consequences Of Easing Or Prolonging Lockdowns

With the global economy balancing on a thread and staggering unemployment rates threatening the livelihoods of millions, experts have cautioned that if we continue to extend lockdowns, irreversible worldwide damage will soon arise.

However, some scientists have warned against easing social restrictions, claiming that they have kept COVID-19 at bay, and dissolving them would leave us vulnerable to another widespread outbreak that we may not be prepared for.

All in all, it seems that regardless of whether we prolong or ease lockdown restrictions, a form of disaster- be it financial or health-related- is inevitable.

So, in this article, I wanted to determine what obstacles we are likely to face if the World returns to its pre-lockdown conditions, and how these consequences compare to the outcomes of a prolonged lockdown instead, in order to gain a clearer picture of how the coming months might unfold.

Possible Outcomes Of Easing Lockdown:

Regardless of how well we are able to maintain social distancing standards after lockdown is relaxed, a second wave of coronavirus infections is only to be expected.

Some of the first nations to experience widespread contagion, such as China, South Korea, and Germany, have already warned of a looming ‘second wave’ in their regions- only a few weeks after their restrictions were eased.

The unfortunate reality of this pandemic is that, until a vaccine is developed, the World will have no choice but to loop through phases of easing lockdowns, to allow for the economy to recover, followed by tightening them again once infection rates begin to pick up.

Nonetheless, scientists predict that future outbreaks will not be as detrimental as the one we have just experienced.

Although our knowledge of COVID-19 remains extremely limited, we have been able to recognize certain practices that delay or even prevent rapid contagion.

The past few months of strict social distancing, for example, have undoubtedly changed our behavior in public. We now understand the importance of avoiding crowded areas, and how best to protect ourselves when placed in risky surroundings.

This, coupled with the fact that many venues will continue to uphold restrictions after lockdown has been lifted, will certainly delay a future upsurge of cases.

Additionally, we are no longer as oblivious to the treatment of COVID-19 as we once were.

Despite the topic of vaccinations still being a large debate amongst scientists, over the months, we have discovered certain combinations of drugs that at least ease the virus’s symptoms.

Blood thinners, antibiotics, and corticosteroids such as dexamethasone have shown efficiency in mitigating the severity of infections and can oftentimes even speed the recovery of patients.

Therefore, when another coronavirus wave begins to formulate, our health care systems and workers will not be under as much pressure as before, resulting in a significant decrease in death, and a faster economic revival.

Another subject that has sparked heated debate across many communities is whether a vaccine will truly eliminate the coronavirus threat.

This uncertainty arose from the fact that SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus- meaning it is prone to mutations. These mutations, if rapidly occurring, are likely to cause significant change to the virus itself, possibly altering the way it attaches to our bodies and deeming any vaccine we develop against it virtually useless.

Luckily, however, COVID-19 has proven unique in comparison to its RNA counterparts.

Multiple studies have shown that the coronavirus’s mutations are roughly half as common as other RNA viruses, leading scientists to believe that a vaccine targeting the original strain of the coronavirus will not be undermined by a few mutations.

Possible Outcomes Of Prolonging Lockdowns:

Remaining in lockdown and upholding restrictions will eliminate the possibility of another coronavirus wave. However, it will also summon a surge of other life-shattering catastrophes- some that may take years to recover from.

The U.S. has been in lockdown for roughly 3 months and unemployment rates have already passed those of the depression of 2008-2009.

In fact, for the first time in history, U.S. oil prices have turned negative. But the U.S. is not alone in its struggles.

The global economy has already shrunk by 3% and, under the worst circumstances, could possibly deteriorate by up to 8% by 2021.

Countries in the eurozone, such as Italy and France, have nearly hit this milestone, and if lockdown persists, will not be able to fully recover until 2023.

India and China are some of the only nations predicted to grow economically in 2020, but their minimal growth will not be able to cushion the blow of crumbling oil prices.

The current oil war between Saudi and Russia, which you can read a simplified overview of here, has exasperated the crash of oil prices, which have already hit a 21-year low.

This will virtually doom the economies of many oil-exporting nations, especially those that rely on it heavily- such as most countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Furthermore, a prolonged lockdown will result in a wider financial gap for lower-class communities.

Whilst many of us still receive our salaries from home, there are those who can no longer perform their service-based jobs and are surviving on limited governmental benefits.

The longer lockdown lasts, the less support governments will be able to provide to these struggling communities. And as the demand for these services increases, companies will resort to technology to sustain their businesses, meaning that many might return to jobs that no longer need human assistance after lockdowns are lifted.

Consequently, the racial wealth gap will multiply tenfold, and rates of poverty will skyrocket.

In regard to younger generations, our educational establishments will also be amongst those adversely affected by extended lockdowns.

Even though our schools have attempted to provide the most efficient education online, in most cases, it simply does not compare to physically being in a classroom.

The ability to concentrate and comprehend is not as powerful at home as it is in the presence of a teacher- which then raises many concerns: Will this generation’s students be expected to carry out exams that they might not be prepared for? Will we have to extend school days after lockdown is lifted to make up for our delayed progress?

Honestly, I believe the only way our education systems will overcome this pandemic is through a large-scale reform of the establishment that will make it more suited to deal with the unexpected.

Until then, we must remember that our fate is very much in our hands. The way we handle the coming months and our commitment to social distancing guidelines will determine how soon we may need to enter another phase of lockdown.

Although the current easing of restrictions may lead us to believe that the coronavirus is no longer a threat, we must recognize, now more than ever, that resorting to our illusions will only lead to larger setbacks.

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