The Covid 19 pandemic is a story still being written. No one expected this virus – I think even the Chinese were surprised.
Naturally, different leaders have reacted in slightly different ways. Sooner or later, however, most of them were closing borders, enforcing lockdowns, social distancing – you know the drill.
There was one Western nation, however, that bucked the trend. That country was Sweden.
Sweden refused to lock down its economy. It remained open for business and just implemented simple measures like social distancing, hand washing and so forth.
So, how is this working out for them? Well, this last week, Sweden had the highest per capita death rate in the world. On the surface then, it looks like they made a fatal mistake.
The Australian breathlessly ran the headline, “Sweden out in the cold with Europe’s highest death rate”
But before we get too excited, let’s look at the figures involved as reported in that article.
“Sweden averaged 6.25 deaths a day per million people over the past week. Britain averaged 5.75 deaths a day per million, Belgium 4.6, France 3.49, and Italy 3.”
Now before you start pointing fingers at the Swedes, be aware that this is the first time that the Swedish death rates have overtaken these other countries.
Overall, deaths in Sweden are much lower so they have some catching up to do.
Whether they will eventually have more or less deaths is unsure, but I suspect the difference won’t be great.
If you remember, at the start of the pandemic, the big worry was that hospitals would be overwhelmed.
This hasn’t happened in Sweden, or many other places other than Northern Italy.
There are probably many other factors to be taken into account too, such as population density, average age, climate and general health etc.
But let’s just take those figures on face value.
Let’s assume that Britain has saved one life per two million people during the course of the pandemic by shutting down much of its economy. Let’s assume this will continue for one year.
Let’s also assume, because it seems to be the case, that the people saved will have an average age of around 80 years old.
I know some people will argue that that shouldn’t be significant, but since most of us will die around 80 years old anyway, I would argue that it is.
If God himself were to offer me a choice of ten extra years starting as an 80 year old or one extra year as a 21 year old, I know which one I would be taking.
Now let’s ask the question, “at what cost did Britain and the rest of the world, save those one lives per two million people?
The cost has been a massive destruction of economic activity. In particular, the small business sector has been devastated.
Many small businesses will go into liquidation. Many more will be in serious debt or financial strife.
The levels of stress for small business owners will be extraordinary. Many of them will lose their houses. Some will likely suicide. Some will suffer health effects which may eventually prove fatal.
These “lockdown deaths” will never be counted. They will never be broadcast on the TV.
Neither will the deaths of people who missed Cancer appointments or non-elective surgery which lead to complications down the track.
Money which isn’t being earned today will not be spent tomorrow either.
Road blackspots will not be fixed, hospitals will not be upgraded, cars will not be serviced.
All of these will lead to deaths. We will never know how many, but it is safe to assume that it will be many times greater than one in two million.
Keeping sensible policies like hand washing and social distancing where possible is a no brainer. But we need to reopen the economy now, before the lockdown causes more death and suffering than the pandemic.
Doctors are taught a very important maxim when they begin their training. It is, “Do no harm.”
If the cure is worse than the ailment, a doctor is duty bound to not proceed.
Politicians need to take a leaf out of the medical journals and end the lockdown now.