My first prediction is an easy one: many countries are going to ease their restrictions on social isolation in the coming weeks, including many countries with an ongoing corona problem. They simply have to if they want to have any economy left. You can see this happening to different degrees in Denmark, Spain, Austria, Finland, Belgium, and Australia.
My second prediction is that the political and medical elites in Western countries are gradually going to be forced to take back almost everything they have been saying about the effect of lock downs in the last two months.
Why are the medical and policy elites going to resist changing their message? They essentially have no choice. They need to rescue their own careers, which requires saving face. Also, they managed to convince the population of their message. If they suddenly started taking it all back, the hysteria they have fanned would turn on them. So they are initially going to continue to speak about the corona virus as if it is the End of Days.
Why do they need to gradually stop their current mantra about how lock downs are the “safe things to do”? Because they will actually need the population to believe the opposite of what they were told before.
Take the business of “flattening the curve”, which took a long time to explain to the population, but at heart is about having a reduced infection rate so as to prevent the hospitals from being overwhelmed. The endgame on flattening a curve is herd immunity, which needs a lot of people to get this virus. If you lock them up, they cant get it as quick so locking people up simply means it takes longer before they get it.
The most recent research tells us that in most Western countries (ie those not as warm as Australia where a flu is not a big problem anyway), we’d have to keep imprisoning the population for years before one achieved the herd immunity one needed to prevent the IC units at the hospitals from being overwhelmed.
Years of mass imprisonment is simply not on politically or economically. As the pain of the first set of lock downs really becomes felt, populations are not going to accept a repeat. So the politicians are going to be forced to speak out against the necessity of flattening the curve and ignore those medics who continue to argue for it.
This also means accepting the inevitable increase in corona cases when opening up. That will lead to overflowing IC units in hospitals, or at the very least will need to involve turning people away for whom there is no space.
This in turn means the politicians are going to have to openly ignore the data on the corona virus when cases start going up again. They cannot sell this without in some way disowning the previous “flattening the curve” argument. They will need a new narrative. They will probably try something like “its painful but we cannot keep imprisoning the population” argument.
That is just step 1 in becoming more honest though. Yet more honesty will follow because they will be forced to address the fear itself.
Importantly, it is now becoming clear that the health problems associated with mass imprisonment and keeping the population afraid are much worse than the corona threat. A 2015 NHS report thus already said that social isolation causes health damage, such as a “50% excess risk of coronary heart disease”.
Fear is responsible for the paradox of hospitals that have much fewer patients outside of the IC units because people are too afraid to go to hospital. Fear of the virus is disrupting inoculation programs, partly because parents are too afraid to have their children innoculated. People are not showing up for medical check-ups. Those who particularly need exercise to remain healthy, like the old and the frail, are too afraid now to do it. This damage will increase over time as months of neglect and inactivity have far graver effects on health than merely a week or two of inactivity.
The only way to counter this damage from lock downs is to push the exact opposite message to the one that has been pushed the last two months: the message has to be that lock downs are bad for health, that people need to get out, soak up the sun, be around friends and family, and not be afraid to go to hospitals and GPs. So health reasons will force the authorities to start denouncing lock downs, voluntary or involuntary, as unhealthy and that hospitals are quite healthy despite having corona patients in them.
Also, the authorities are going to be forced to openly advertise the fact that almost no-one below 50 runs any serious risk of this corona virus, at least not more than, say, crossing the street. They need to do this to get parents to allow their children to school and to get health check-ups themselves. Similarly, they are going to have to openly reject the excuses of anyone who doesn’t want to show up at work because they are too afraid of the virus (such as teachers), meaning they will have to depict the virus as a threat that is too minor to count as an excuse.
Further, the economic forecasters are now increasingly clear that lock downs are deeply damaging to the economy, so that repeat lock downs will simply mean another massive hit to the economy that in the long run pays for all our public services that keep us healthy. The IMF for instance predicts a second wave of lock downs in 2021 could cost the world economy another 5-8% GDP within a few years. This reflects the fact that each day of a lock down is highly detrimental, not merely the initial panic. Though not an issue in rich countries, some poorer places are now seeing food shortages related to the ongoing lock downs.
So any continued fear of this virus will continue to hurt particular economic sectors, like tourism, hospitality, universities, the arts sector, sports, churches, and any other industry where mass gatherings of people in close proximity are normal. To get those industries going, the politicians representing them will start saying that corona was never really a big threat and that people should not be fearful of mass gatherings, etc.
In conclusion, unwinding the economic and social damage they have done is going to force politicians and the medical profession to gradually say the exact opposite of what they are still saying right this moment.