Nor is France unique. The Czech Republic, a country that responded swiftly and forcefully in the spring, and thereby managed to avoid the first wave almost entirely, is now suffering one of the worst outbreaks in Europe. After doing surprisingly well through September, Sweden is facing its own surge, and abandoning its earlier lax approach to the virus. Meanwhile Belgium, arguably the worst-hit European country back in the spring, is also having a devastating fall, with two and a half times the number of daily cases per capita as France — over six times the U.S.’s rate. If Belgium hasn’t benefited from herd immunity, it’s hard to think of what country could.
Where does that leave all of us, staring down the barrel of a brutal winter?
Many may be tempted to take their prior views to new extremes, as if, like socialism, the only reason they haven’t worked is that they’ve never been tried. So the advocates of lockdowns can point to the virus’ resurgence and say they should never have ended — we should all have stayed maximally distanced until a vaccine is widely distributed. But this is neither a socially nor economically viable strategy. Indeed, one reason that the virus was able to surge back in France and elsewhere in Europe is precisely that European governments were loathe to crush their economies for a second time in only a few months and aware that the population was unlikely to comply in any case. If the only way to beat the virus is “lockdowns forever,” most people are going to take their chances with the virus.