You Have The Right To Remain Infectious

While it’s a controversial decision to ignore lockdown rules, it's also a basic human freedom

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Photo by Daniel Tafjord on Unsplash

Though ordering people to stay in their homes is borderline tyrannical, the COVID-19 lockdown is anything but a wacky conspiracy created by governments to implement a permanent police state or an autocratic regime. The people in power saw citizens dying in their thousands, and without time to think things through properly, they ordered us to stay inside and to stay apart.

However, there’s a problem when our government has enough power to punish people for leaving their homes. Lockdown is a breach of our basic human right to go outside. “Stay home” should be advised, but not ordered, and not printed into legislation. The state’s purpose is to serve the people, not to tell us what we can and can’t do while we’re inside the boundaries of the law.

After a month inside, we’re getting bored playing Xbox, watching endless Netflix originals, and spending hours on Zoom sessions. For some of us, our homes have become prison cells. We’re allowed out for an hour of exercise, and that’s it.

As Andrea González-Ramírez says, “the social distancing backlash is here,” and it’s gaining momentum. Some citizens are disregarding the newly-imposed rules because they need their sanity back. We’re human, we need fresh air, and the recent post-lockdown activity proves that. In Los Angeles, images show a packed Newport Beach. In Florida, police have caught a 42-year-old man camping in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Even government officials have violated the rules like the former Scottish chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, who’s been caught moving house.

People are still going outside despite being warned. They don’t care. But should they be punished? No. If you’re that eager to contract the virus by sunbathing on a highly crowded beach, drinking in a bar, or working out at the gym, go for it. In a free society, you should have the freedom to make dumb decisions. There’s nothing in the constitution that says the state has the right to impose restrictions on movement on grounds of stupidity. You have the right to become infected, and you have the right to unknowingly infect others — without intent, of course. You will be aiding in the spread of the virus, but only to those who want to risk contracting it.

The question you should ask yourself is are you staying indoors because the government’s said so or because you know it’s the right thing to do? I’m staying inside to keep the healthcare system above water and to lower the workload for hard-working staff. Still, I don’t need big brother to tell me what I need to do. It shouldn’t be up to the government to decide whether we're selfish enough to spread the virus by frequenting a highly contagious environment such as a gym, bar, or sports arena. We can figure that out for ourselves.

Any rational person who wants to avoid contracting the virus — because they’re vulnerable, they’re ill, or it’s a massive inconvenience — will do whatever it takes to stay out of harm’s way, whether that’s by never leaving the house until the virus dissipates or by employing a full-time, industrial hazmat suit. Quite simply, we don’t need a lockdown to know to stay indoors.

What we should be talking about is the big taboo: the economic depression we’re creating by staying in total lockdown. We have to assess the damage of shutting down the economy for over a month as forcing businesses to effectively go into bankruptcy may cause thousands of poverty-induced deaths. Yale’s principal investigator, M. Harvey Brenner, has found a direct correlation between rising unemployment and mortality: “Employment is the essential element of social status and it establishes a person as a contributing member of society and also has very important implications for self-esteem,” says Brenner, “When that is taken away, people become susceptible to depression, cardiovascular disease, AIDS, and many other illnesses that increase mortality.”

So, as Betsy McCaughey from the New York Post says, “We must count the deaths from shutdowns as well as from the [C]oronavirus,” The National Bureau of Economic Research and Lancet found that for every 1% rise in the unemployment rate, there’s a 3.3% increase in drug-overdose deaths and a 0.99% increase in suicides. That’s 77,000 potential American lives lost from an economic shutdown; more than the latest figure of 68,089 Coronavirus-related deaths.

After we suffer the pain of both the pandemic and the depression, it’s necessary to see if lockdown-induced deaths exceed COVID-19’s. Judging by the latest figures, it might not have been worth shutting down the economy to the extent that we did. The reason why governments have locked us inside full stop is they simply don’t trust us to make the right decision: to stay inside most of the time. But if when the COVID-19 era ends and the data reveals the human cost of lockdown exceeds the effects of the virus, the opposite decision might be made next time we consider going into lockdown. And, hopefully, that’s not due to a second wave.

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