We will increasingly have to change our lives for freedoms. get closer to having to determine how many deaths from COVID-19 and how much disease we are willing to live with to return to something more like a normal life.
Last week’s NSW “roadmap to freedom” implicitly made these trade-offs. Calculations prepared by the Treasury and the Grattan Institute make them clearer.
There are few important things to note: One is that we may still be able to get the best of both worlds.
We may still be able to effectively eliminate the Delta variant and restore both health and freedoms (as we did with the previous variants). This will not happen if we ease restrictions before the transfer is stopped, as some states plan to do.
LOCKS WITHOUT Ends are unsustainable
Another is that infinite shutdowns are unsustainable. While last year’s shutdowns did not do the psychological and health and educational damage that was feared, shutdowns would eventually do.
One type of injury that is clear from the comprehensive report on last year’s closures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is domestic violence and domestic violence. The longer the suspensions continue, the longer the increased violence is likely to continue.
And another thing to note is that in a world where we have to make trade-offs, there are no particularly good alternatives. Allowing the disease to spread to restore freedom of movement would in itself limit freedom of movement.
An analysis by the United States indicates that 90 percent of last year’s collapse in face shopping was due to fear of COVID-19 rather than formal restrictions. That fear will grow if we lift restrictions and the spread of COVID-19.
The Grattan Institute would lift suspensions only when 80 percent of the entire population has been double-vaccinated (not 70 to 80 percent of people aged 16 and older as NSW and national plans predict, which amounts to 56 to 64 percent of the population).
Grattan believes that its plan would cost 2,000 to 3,000 lives per year; a cost that it thinks the public would accept because it is similar to the normal toll from the flu.
NSW and national plans (except Victoria, which are not spelled out) would cost much more.
NO OPTION IS EXTREMELY GOOD
The Commonwealth Treasury finds, perhaps counter-intuitively, that an aggressive lockdown strategy that saved more lives would result in lower financial costs (about $ 1 billion or $ 0.73 billion per week lower) in part because it would result in fewer lockdowns.
They are the kind of calculations we hoped to never have to do.
There’s still a chance we might not. With a herculean effort, NSW and Victoria were still able to join Taiwan, New Zealand and all other Australian states to be effectively COVID-free. But they run out of time.
Peter Martin is a visiting fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University. This comment first appeared on the conversation.