We are simultaneously witnessing an unprecedented pandemic, loss of life and resources, a global environmental crisis, and the resultant economic downfall due to it all – and we are only halfway through with the year. The world as we knew it has ceased to exist. Closer inspection into what the ongoing coronavirus pandemic exhibits is that 2020 is the year that everything changed. The shift towards a new normal was inevitable and almost everyone has had to navigate and deal with it. And in order to limit the further spreading of the virus, lockdowns have been put in place by affected countries. So here is a quick rundown on what are the implications of a lockdown in the current backdrop of events.
WHAT DOES A LOCKDOWN IMPLY?
The meaning of a lockdown differs based on its context. It can be a tangible lockdown of a place, for example, prison lockdowns because of a riot or some other disturbance. Or it could be an intangible lockdown, for instance, a freeze of bank accounts or credit lockdowns.
But in the current context, a lockdown means a security measure put in place by the respective authorities during an emergency and preventing people from leaving or entering the said place of lockdown. This is due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has obfuscated our way of living in its entirety. As of now, about 216 countries, areas, or territories have reported over 8 million cases of the deadly coronavirus. Since there is no cure or vaccine invented yet for the disease, lockdowns are seen as a necessary step to contain the spread of the deadly disease.
The procedure employed for the imposition of lockdowns in an area depends on the policies and the decisions of the local authorities. Mitigating techniques like quarantine and physical distancing help in containing the disease. Though people are advised to follow the guidelines given out by the World Health Organization as well as their local authorities, lockdowns are a good way of enforcing it properly. So people with travel history can isolate themselves in designated quarantine centers or their homes.
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ADVANTAGES OF A LOCKDOWN
At the outset, lockdowns are imposed by the authorities on people due to extreme unforeseen circumstances. It is an emergency strategical requirement to help saves lives. Be it a human threat of terrorism or the disease that has led to a pandemic – these measures are put in place with the sole purpose to limit a large number of casualties. Though the active number of cases are rapidly increasing, the number of deaths are comparatively lesser. And one of the only ways to aid in further spread of the disease is through government-mandated lockdowns. Hence, lockdown measures are as important to stop the disease as testing.
Flatten the Curve
Within the context of the coronavirus pandemic or any other highly contagious disease, lockdowns assist in flattening the curve. This term was introduced as a strategy to de-escalate the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus during the coronavirus pandemic. The curve mentioned is the number of people infected needing healthcare over time. It clearly shows that our healthcare systems do not have the capacity to deal with the exponential increase of the virus outbreak. It is also important to remember that we do not have a cure for this disease yet. Hence, measures like physical distancing and work from home orders are important to limit the disease till it can be eradicated completely.
Most countries and areas affected by the spread of the disease have enforced lockdowns. Due to this, we have witnessed drastic changes in economic activities. As a result, there are reports claiming that there is a reduction in environmental pollution now. With lesser industrial activity and a decline in travel emissions, air pollution levels have seen a stark decline. For instance, it was reported that in China, one of the first countries to impose a complete shutdown, had about a 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions immediately following the said imposition.
This pandemic has brought the people of the world closer than ever before. The devastating effects of the disease have been proportionally met with kindness and generosity. Mass mobilization of funds, food, resources by non-governmental organizations, and spirited citizens of the world showcases the fact that there is some light beyond this difficult tunnel.
DISADVANTAGES OF A LOCKDOWN
The pandemic has become a threat to the global economy. Stock markets are seeing an all-time low. Industries like tourism, hospitality, event management, and retail sees an uncertain future ahead. In addition to the fear of their lives, millions have also lost their jobs, housing, and a sense of security. Lockdown means people have to stay home. As a result, companies have had to shut shop as the demand for goods and services have taken a hit. Recovering from what looks like the costliest disaster we have had in recent history, seems like a distant dream.
Loss of Livelihood
An economic crisis is a broad term that affects almost all spheres of activity. Loss of livelihood and income is one of the major adverse outcomes out of it. Non-essential services make up the majority of the economy. As a result, non-essential workers have the fear of losing their jobs, security, and income. Many companies and organizations have put in place the work from home policy for their employees. But we know that this has its limitations. Everyone cannot work from home and some don’t even have homes, to begin with. Labourers, construction workers, hospitality industry workers, etc. who live from paycheck to paycheck do not have jobs anymore.
In India, for instance, when the first lockdown was announced in March four hours prior to its implementation, millions of migrant workers were stranded without food, income, or any certainty of the future. Without any modes of transportation available, some started walking back to their homes which were hundreds of miles away. Many of these migrants lost their lives due to the lockdown because of starvation, fatigue, accidents, and police brutality.
Marginalized At Risk
Marginalized communities have always been the most disadvantaged during a disaster. Though a lockdown can help in further spreading the disease, the adverse effects of this lockdown starkly impacts women, people with disabilities, health workers, migrant workers, etc. They are more at risk of starvation, inadequate medical support, no income, and social discrimination due to fear. So unless these hardships are addressed, they continue to be at risk.
Another drawback of lockdowns is the outrage of people against it. In the United States of America, there were protests to restore the functioning of services when the lockdown was imposed. There are several people flouting the lockdown guidelines and physical distancing norms as well. Even when there are heavy penalties in place for not following guidelines, people are not following them. Hence, the effectiveness of the lockdown diminishes when people do not take public health seriously.
To sum up, lockdowns are certainly an effective way of containing a hostile situation only as long as there is a public trust. People must adhere to guidelines and policies diligently for better and swifter results.