James Meadway in OpenDemocracy:
The demand for zero COVID rightly sets a high bar for the current lockdown conditions, insisting on working towards the virtual elimination of COVID in Britain. It is critical that, unlike the experience last year, lockdown is not ended too soon. Aiming not only to “protect the NHS”, as is still the aim of government, but to reduce infections to near-zero would place this country (like any other) in a far better place, post-lockdown, than it was in following the first or second lockdown. It is also undeniable that the countries that went in hard against the virus early on, have been reaping the benefits – from Vietnam and Taiwan to New Zealand and Australia.
But it would be a major error to think that zero COVID is a permanent solution to the crisis we are now in. The Left and progressives absolutely must not become enthusiasts for lockdown: it is a terrible necessity, not some desirable point to get to. We should no more be cheering for this than we would cheer for war – a war may well be necessary at some point, but it’s hardly something to be called for gladly. The fact is that we have a terrible disease to deal with, and have to do so in a way that minimises death and illness from the disease – but also, importantly, from how we deal with the disease.
The cost of lockdowns is high: not because Gross Domestic Product takes a knock, or because the government has to borrow money, but because of the strains on mental health, on children’s education, or in the sharp rise in reported domestic violence cases. We should aim to minimise the costs of COVID, but we then need to also minimise the costs of lockdown. This means looking to leave this lockdown at an appropriate point, and acting now to never return to lockdown again.