“Churchill: "Madam, would you sleep with me for a million pounds?"
Socialite: "My goodness, Mr. Churchill... Well, I suppose... we would have to discuss terms, of course... "
Churchill: "Would you sleep with me for five pounds?"
Socialite: "Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!"
Churchill: "Madam, we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price”That exchange, attributed to Winston Churchill, came to mind when I was pondering the political calculations when governments decide how and when to lift the Covid-19 lockdown.
If, here in Canada, we knew the country could return to business as usual - no social distancing, no quarantine, every business once again open, everyone back to work - but it would mean an additional 1,000 deaths our leaders might well go for it. 2,000 - I expect so. 3,000 - maybe but with a lot of feigned soul searching and deep regret, real "thoughts and prayers" stuff.
The calculus might be much different if real people, names and faces, were attached to the butcher's bill. That would be almost akin to passing a death sentence. "Yes, you guys can go back to work but Aunt Tilly here, well, she's a goner." If it was your Aunt Tilly, however, and you kind of liked her, you might not be too crazy about her taking one - the Big One - for the team. It's got that 'sacrificing a virgin so that the gods will ensure a good harvest' tone to it.
But, of course, faceless victims are more expendable. Their anonymity greases the wheels of decision making. It reduces the equation to so much haggling in the ranks of political whoredom. In truth, would we expect anything more - or anything less? Not so long as we don't have to see their faces, eh?
This is more than hypothetical. The powerful consensus in the medical community is that Covid-19 is not a "one and done" emergency. We have been warned, quite plainly, to expect at least one more wave of the pandemic that history has shown could be far more deadly than the first.
Next time we may not have the luxury of a month or two to watch the virus emerge and then spread from country to country before it reaches our land. Next time may be a 'come as you are party.'
Donald Trump has addressed this. He acknowledges that most doctors say it'll be back. He says that America has learned so many lessons from Round One that, if/when Covid-19 resurfaces, the US will nip it in the bud. Except that Round One isn't over. No one has rung the bell. Yet many States are starting to sound the 'all clear' and, in the process, creating the conditions needed for the contagion to grow and spread.
If the political will is too weak to continue the lockdown until Round One is over or very nearly so, how willing or reluctant will governments be to impose lockdown again if/when the virus seems to be coming for a rematch?
What's the plan? How will government respond? How long will that take? What will be expected of us? Where's this vaccine? So many questions and yet no answers.