- You could see Covid-19 as an empathy test.
- Rich people plough money into ventilation to protect themselves.
- Those with long Covid are treated as an embarrassment.
If environmentalism means anything, it’s that our damaging gratifications should take second place to the interests of others. Yet these people immediately failed the test, placing their own convenience above the health and lives of others.
Cost Of Inaction
We have become more aware of the costs of inaction. One of the justifications for selfishness was that liberating the virus would build herd immunity. But we now have plenty of evidence suggesting that exposure does not strengthen our immune system, but may weaken it. The virus attacks and depletes immune cells, ensuring that for some people, immune dysfunction persists for months after infection.
We also know that, with every new exposure, we are more likely to suffer adverse effects. A massive study in the US found that the risk of brain, nerve, heart, lung, blood, kidney, insulin and muscular disorders accumulates with every reinfection. The impacts of long Covid, according to health metrics researchers, are “as severe as the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury”.
We are all playing Covid roulette. The next infection could be the one that permanently disables you. For families with school-age children, the chamber turns more often than for those without. Yet, three years after the pandemic began, the government still does almost nothing to make schools safe. There’s a powerful argument that just as cholera was stopped by cleaning the water, Covid will be stopped by cleaning the air. The virus thrives in badly ventilated, shared spaces – especially classrooms, where students sit together for long periods. One study found that mechanical ventilation systems in classrooms reduce the infection risk by 74%.
The importance of ventilation and filtration is not lost on our lords and masters. Parliament now has a sophisticated air filter system, incorporating electrostatic precipitators. According to the contractor that fitted them, they ensure airborne viruses and bacteria are “kept to an absolute minimum within the space”. The clean air standards rich and powerful people demand for themselves should be universal, rolled out to all schools and other public buildings. Instead, while private schools have been able to invest in ventilation and filtration, state schools, many of which are close to bankruptcy, rely on government disbursements that are strictly rationed by a series of nonsensical conditions.
Mass Disabling Agents
But instead of taking simple and effective actions – proper (N95) masks in public places, filtration in shared spaces – we have steadily normalized a mass disabling agent. It’s likely, eventually, to reduce the number of quality years for almost everyone. Those who suffer the extreme version of this disablement, long Covid, are treated as an embarrassment we would prefer to forget.
These are the people who, with their threats and conspiracy theories, may have helped drive Jacinda Ardern, the politician who arguably protected more people from the virus than any other, out of office. They are the people who, in some cases, have abused mask wearers in the street, and doctors and nurses in hospitals. If they have not yet been infected, they attribute their good fortune to “natural immunity”, rather than not getting out very much.
Do we really mean to sit and watch as this infection encroaches on our freedom to be well, brutal winter after brutal winter? Or do we step in where the government has failed, and normalize concern for the lives of others once more? Like all the other moral challenges we face, this is now on us.
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