What if…we have already “crushed the curve”?

Back at the start of this pandemic we were told (quite correctly) that the main aim of the restrictions to liberty and commerce was to buy time. We were (quite corectly) told that there was a danger of an out of control surge overwhelming the health system. Particular concern was raised about ICU bed shortages with a crash effort being made to upgrade that bottleneck.

So, this seems to have worked. Total cumulative hospitalised cases (all data from the HSE https://data.gov.ie/dataset/covidstatisticsprofilehpscirelandopendata) have been essentially flat since the start of June, total ICU admissions since about Mid June. This is of course excellent news. But it does beg the question of : what now?

While some epideimologists suggest we continue to take ever more drastic actions to “crush the curve”, a vaguely soviet soundbite, the reality is that in a global community there is no hiding place. No country can isolate itself from travel forever. And we may be here forever if we dont get a vaccine. No society can be worth living in with no live music, no singing, no large scale social human interaction, the army policing movement of people in a “papers please” way to ensure that you have not strayed outside your control zone, and an economy with large parts shuttered and more throttled by WFH and distancing. Sure, it can exist, and perhaps for a good long time. But presumably even the most fervent curvecrusher would rather live than exist. So, where now? Manifestly we have prevented that which we determined we should prevent. What defines success now? Is it zero cases on average over a certain period? Zero hospital admissions? ICU? Death? The danger well known in business is that absent clear goals mission creep is inevitable. A further danger is that those people and organizations charged with complex and difficult tasks and given great power to achieve same are often reluctant to yield up these powers even when clear benchmarks have been met. Temporary, emergency, special powers and approaches often bed into systems. So, clarity from top would be helpful to all.

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