Lockdowns are as contagious as COVID

Suppression policies are generally preferred to mitigation ones because they deal more directly with people’s fear of the virus and, relatedly, because they signal that we care about the immediate threat to human life. Mitigation policies address the fear of infection more weakly and lack the power of a virtue signal. Suppression policies might still be more effective, of course, but not for these reasons. When the UK went into lockdown, the public were more than ready for it. In fact, many were clamoring for it on the basis that Italy, Spain, France and Ireland had shown how much they cared about the immediate mortality risks by imposing quite stringent restrictions on personal freedoms.

The UK government was not signaling hard enough that it cared about people dying and so, when the lockdown finally came, most of the discussion was around whether the measures were stringent enough, rather than too stringent. In this sense, the UK government initially chose the restaurant with no one in it, but then ran across the street to the one where most of its public were seated. Anyone brave enough to stand against the herd, the fear factor and the virtue signaling to suggest that closing the schools might be a disproportionate response was considered akin to a genocidal maniac.

And so we find ourselves where we are now. Schools are closed and the fear of opening them again looms disproportionately large in many people’s minds.