Difficult as it is to believe – and distressing as it is to behold – Australia daily embraces greater tyranny. This new announcement reads as if it’s lifted directly from a dystopian novel. How can anyone observe what’s being done in Australia and deny that Covid Derangement Syndrome is real and dangerous?
Tight lockdowns to stamp on the smallest outbreak were held up as an example to the rest of the world, with campaigns in countries including Britain calling for the same here.
But when it comes to reopening, China finds itself stuck in a seemingly endless game of whack-a-mole, cracking down rather than learning to live with Covid as an endemic but decreasingly deadly disease.
It is not the only country that tried to wipe the virus out. Australia sealed its borders and imposed tough restrictions. Its death count is also low – fewer than 1,000 have died of Covid, an enviable figure in comparison to more than 130,000 in the UK.
But still, lockdowns remain frequent and severe.
Throughout the pandemic, restaurant workers delivered food to stay-at-home zoom professionals. How did we thank them? With a $300 fine for not wearing their mask correctly!
US and UK plunged into lockdowns without realistic aims, without an exit plan and with a mission that crept and mutated by the day. As many of us warned at the time, it was hard to see how it would end well. We were, as usual dismissed and reviled.
4. Masks could be damaging your health
According to the BMJ, studies show the oxygen deficiency caused by mask wearing can lead to increased heart rate, nausea, dizziness and headaches. You probably knew that already, but the BMJ also says face masking can increase stress hormones, leading to ‘a negative impact on immune resilience in the long term’. As with the devotion of the NHS to Covid at the expense of other diseases, it seems the masking policy prioritised short-term political gain over long-term health outcomes.
Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik is consistently dreadful. He’s innumerate, ignorant of history, even more ignorant of economics, and an excellent example of someone who confuses intentions for results. In this EconLog post, David Henderson characteristically bends over backwards to be generous to Hiltzik. Note also Charley Hooper’s excellent comments.
Here’s a bit of good news out of Texas. (HT Phil Magness)
But put all that to one side. Suppose the authors are correct that universal masking reduces transmission in schools. Is it therefore worth doing? I would argue no.
First, there are tangible costs to mask-wearing. They’re uncomfortable. They get dirty. And they don’t allow you to see other people’s faces, which hampers learning (particularly for the youngest children) as well as social interaction more generally.
Second, it’s not even clear that we want to prevent children from becoming infected. For starters, they face an extremely low risk of death from COVID-19. According to a recent English study, the survival rate for under-18s is 99.995%. And if COVID-19 becomes endemic, which seems very likely, they’ll have to get it at some point. So why not now?
In fact, we might want to encourage children to become infected, the better to build up population immunity and protect the most vulnerable. (I’m of course exempting children who have a serious underlying health condition.)
Vaccination is another option, but I believe we should focus vaccines on those who actually need them, such as elderly people in other countries. And in any case, many people don’t want their children to be vaccinated.
The authors of the New York Times piece make two claims: universal masking cuts transmission in schools; and therefore we should require it. I’m sceptical of the first claim, but even if it’s true, the second doesn’t follow. Wearing masks is costly, and it’s not even clear we want to prevent infections among healthy children.