Costs to benefits, time to end the Lockdown!

The World has been confined for more than 60 days now. Efforts to counter the Corona endemic continue to dominate the global scene. Researchers and pharmaceuticals are working relentlessly to find a cure for the virus, while medical teams are keenly attending to their patients. Governments are doing their best to manage this situation, although so far their performance has been less than impressive. Meanwhile, the whole world has literary come to a halt across most sectors, and whatever is still running, has to do with securing the needs of medical relief or catering to the food and hygiene essentials of home-quarantined people. Amidst all this however, comes the question that has been boiling in the minds of millions for long: “When will the lockdown be over?”

There is no direct way to answer this simple but very big question, yet putting some logic to the overall picture, allows us to bring a bit of clarity into a very foggy ordeal. In this regards, we need to go back to the basic question of why did world governments embrace a lockdown strategy in the beginning? Well, very simply, governments are in charge of the physical safety of their citizens, and the corona virus was a major life threatening situation. As such, a lockdown was imperative because it would stop people from intermingling and hence diminishes the possibility for a virus widespread. Governments also wanted to limit the number of infected people because their healthcare sectors had a limited capacity to accommodate all corona patients who need to be hospitalized simultaneously. There is no cure, the number of ventilators is limited, and so is the number of beds in hospitals. Further, there is no definite time as to how long does it take for a patient to heal. Accordingly, a lockdown was the most obvious resolution, and ideally the best one to limit life losses.

Driven by this protective approach, governments adopted relevant measures in order to organize the lives of millions of confined people. Commuting time as well as opening hours of private and public institutions had to be planned in a way to maintain the effectiveness of the lockdown, while allowing people to get hold of their basic needs. This prompted a curfew schedule and procedures both for individuals and organizations, as well as special ad hoc disciplinary measures to reinforce adopted restrictions. Of course, the measures differed from one country to another, depending on the intensity of the endemic, the number of cases, and ultimately the methodology each government embraced with respect to managing the crisis.

In brief, governments had to adopt such arrangements because they estimated that the cost of not taking any measures was much higher than that of a lockdown. But what happens when the cost of the lockdown starts becoming higher than the cost of lifting it? 60 days later, and despite entering into some kind of a trend regarding the number of daily cases, no clear track can be detected about how and when this endemic will end. Governments continue to embrace a defensive-passive day-to-day strategy towards managing the crisis; a strategy that rests on maintaining confinement measures, encouraging social distancing, conducting as many PCR tests as possible, sterilizing public places, organizing awareness campaigns, and diving into endless discussions about the impact of this endemic on the socio-economic state of existence.

However, today we all stand in front of a dangerously alarming reality, which is that the world has come to a point where the cost of maintaining the lockdown is starting to outweigh the cost of lifting it. Every day passes, more people lose their jobs, more businesses go bankrupt, and more vulnerable economies prepare to collapse. This has nothing to do with politics or regimes, nor with hardcore economics. This is beginning to touch on survival. Despite thousands of years of evolution, one human instinct refuses to change inside us, and that is the instinct of survival. We continue to be driven by this instinct, and when it comes that far, nothing will stop humans from taking desperate measures to persevere. The risk for an all-out scenario is growing every day, and unless governments start taking more active strategies, the nastiness of the post-endemic world will be harsher.

Governments need to reflect for a moment and consider launching a parallel stream of action to accompany its efforts for fighting the corona virus. In other words, governments have to shift from their current passive approach to an outgoing active approach that innovatively embraces a corona-infested world and puts life back into economic cycles. Governments need to to grasp that the endemic has already changed the world, and that they have to align all their actions immediately. What if the corona endemic does not end soon (or end at all)? Does this mean that people will continue to be confined in their homes? Does this mean that governments will continue handling the corona crisis as they are doing today? Does this mean that the market will continue to be closed and the economy is put on halt? Will governments continue to adopt a ‘wait and see’ mode, or they will sense the urgency of the moment and work on reactivating the world? Answers to these questions will definitely help a lot of governments to envision the active ‘go-getter’ strategy they need to embark on in order to diminish the growing possibility of a total collapse scenario.

Lifting the lockdown and reopening the global market is no more an option. The cost of confinement is becoming – and possibly has become – higher that the cost of opening up and letting people gain the herd immunity. Perhaps, taken from a totally pragmatic ‘cost-benefit’ approach, this might have been a more optimal resolution than the protectionism strategies adopted by most countries around the world. Still, nobody knows! However, what is almost sure is that the continuation of the lockdown, and the current day to day routine of handling the corona endemic does not draw a promising picture for the future. Governments so far did not reveal that they recognize that the point is not only in containing the corona virus, but also in containing its impact, simultaneously and not successively! We should not wait for beating corona to embark on our actions henceforth. If the world does doesn’t open up within the coming 30 days, we might be seeing different behaviors and alarming reactions. More people will lose their jobs, homes, businesses, and basic livelihood requirements, which will make them poor, agitated, and more receptive to influence by the agendas of trouble makers. Consequently, governments will find themselves obliged to resort to more severe economic – and possibly restrictive – measures that will trigger even more unrest and poverty. Inability to recognize the danger of this vicious cycle of agitation and intimidation will potentially lead to explosion, chaos, and oligarchic scenarios.

Wise governments should shift from a passive to an active ‘go-getter’ mindset regarding the post-endemic world, and they should do it now! A hungry human being is dangerous, more so if he has nothing to lose.

Charles S. Saliba
Positive Thinker
Organizational, Leadership & HR Expert
Founder & CEO at HR Works – Consulting House

President of the Lebanese Consultants Association

Copyright – Charles Saliba © 2020