What are the risks of lockdown?

Many countries have declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews in a bid to combat the spread of the corona pandemic. In Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and Denmark, for example, citizens are only allowed to leave their homes for urgent reasons.

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Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Saving lives at any cost

In Hospodářské noviny, two former leading Czech bankers, Zdeněk Tůma and Mojmír Hampl, urge us to think about the post-pandemic period:

“We have the impression that the government's vigorous measures often focus exclusively on health and do not take sufficient account of the socio-economic consequences. ... The epidemic will be long gone, but it will take the whole developed world a long time to recover from this economic harakiri. We have serious doubts that the risks of the coronavirus are indeed so great that they justify intervention without discussion and time limits and the use of such instruments. Yes, people expect the government to provide security and protect their lives. But certainly not at any cost.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Radical measures not always better

In the Netherlands, right-wing populists are attacking the government for not ordering a total lockdown. De Volkskrant points out that there is no proof of its effectiveness:

“In the short term, a lockdown might have some effect, but it would not prevent more severe corona outbreaks in the long term. Neither the expected increase in corona deaths in the Netherlands nor the fact that other European countries are ordering a stricter - but equally unchecked - regime are reasons for a change of course. ... Of course it's conceivable that in an unpredictable crisis like this the government might change its course of action, but this must be based on new insights from the experts, not on the vague assumption that the more radical interventions are in principle the better ones.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Boredom and fear are an explosive combination

People won't put up with months of lockdown, The Irish Times fears:

“The Imperial College report is less ambiguous: social distancing needs to be in force for at least two-thirds of the time until a vaccine becomes available. That's 18 months away. The risk, during that period, is that resentment will fester. Right now, we are frightened and grateful for strong and stable leadership, but fatigue and irritation will set in. People who are bored and anxious are susceptible to voices offering other, more appealing scenarios and solutions, or those who say there was another way. Down the road, a whole other crisis of democracy is looming.”

HuffPost Italia (IT) /

Politicians evading responsibility

The whole burden is being shifted onto the citizens, complains political scientist Nadia Urbinati in HuffPost Italia:

“We are being given to understand that the entire responsibility lies with the citizens. But what about the responsibility of the institutions which today are threatening to take even 'tougher' measures? Is there amnesia about the decisions taken in the recent past - those that have trampled on and weakened public Health? ... The decisions of governments at both the national and regional level must be taken into account when allocating responsibility. Yet we have not heard a word of self-criticism.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Taboo after taboo being broken

Contemporary historian René Schlott also has an uneasy feeling about the drastic shutting down of public life. In a guest commentary for the Süddeutsche Zeitung he writes:

“If we didn't know better we could interpret the events of recent days for a right-wing populist takeover. However once a precedent has been set, who can rule out the possibility that the same restrictions on fundamental rights will be reactivated again in the future in the name of another supposed emergency? ... The closure of the border with Austria, partly on the grounds that it prevents panic buying from the neighbouring country, is a slap in the face to all those who, until a few days ago, defended the policy of open borders. The fundamental right to asylum has been made obsolete. The humanitarian dam has burst.”