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African American man wearing a face masks against air pollution and covid19 coronavirus, standing on escalator and holding a suitcase.

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If You Don’t “Believe” in Masks & Lockdowns, You’re a Moron

The necessity for the world to be under a lockdown right now and for us to wear masks when we do leave our homes is really not up for debate. The results for countries that enforced lockdowns and mandated masks speak for themselves and the results of those that didn’t tell the rest of the story. Honestly, I can’t even believe I have to write this article.


[dropcap]I[/dropcap] spend too much time on Twitter. It’s really unhealthy. But it’s also a great way to measure popular opinion and challenge my ideas. Lately, however, I’ve been coming into contact with a disturbing number of people that are disputing the science behind the coronavirus outbreak and the economic conditions and responses that come with it. So I’ve decided to debunk every stupid idea I’ve encountered in my poisonous discussions with a subset of people that are either liars, hypocrites or idiots.

In spite of the very simple messaging published by reliable sources on the appropriate strategies for surviving and conquering the coronavirus, this group of people have been convinced that it’s “fake news” and propagate conspiracy theories, accusing every government in the world of imposing draconian measures. And let me make this clear, I have no interest in addressing any policy (such as the alcohol/tobacco ban and curfew in South Africa) outside of the mandatory wearing of masks or lockdowns. So let me present the arguments I’ve encountered and show you exactly why they are moronic.

The lockdown is bad for the economy and job losses will cost more lives

OK, firstly, let me say how ironic it is that the majority of the people presenting this argument are the very same people who jerk off to Ayn Rand and worship free-market trickle-down economics. Funny how they’ve been saying “pull yourselves up by the bootstraps. If you work hard enough, you can become rich”, and that they typically put up their blinkers on when people talk about inequality, denying the moral repugnance of poverty and exploitation of workers. But suddenly they’re concerned about the plight of people who are suffering financially overnight. The second you suggest providing a universal basic income payment for the duration of the pandemic, you’ll be thrown under the bus as a “commie” or “radical leftist”.

However, let’s take on their argument as if it isn’t unbelievably hypocritical. Do you think the people who want a lockdown enjoy being locked in our homes? No, we just want to get to the point where the economy can reopen as fast as possible. Following the scientific guidelines set out by the WHO, and proven by the best-performing nations in terms of infections and deaths, we can get there a lot faster. Part of the recommendations by medical professionals is that we wear masks and limit our contact with other people as far as possible.

On a side note, my colleague, Melissa Da Costa published a story breaking down the science behind COVID-19 and the recommended changes that we needed to make to our lifestyles way, way back in February. Back then, there was very little research out there about COVID-19, its symptoms or anything of that nature. But she did her research and the articles holds up well today. But even back then it was incredibly clear that a lockdown and mandatory mask wearing were necessary to halt the spread of COVID-19. How did we know? Well, quite simple. This isn’t the first coronavirus.

We learned very valuable lessons from SARS and MERS – unsurprisingly, South East Asia and the Middle Eastern nations all responded best to the COVID-19 outbreaks in their countries, shutting down their borders, practicing strict social distancing, being meticulous about personal hygiene and wearing masks. And because the people there aren’t selfish, they did what was best for each other and complied with their governments’ orders. It was fairly easy to carry out testing drives, identify positive cases, employ contact tracing to isolate positive cases and therefore stave the spread of the virus. Outside of those regions, countries like Australia, New Zealand and Germany followed their example.

Germany has 14,000 active cases at the time of writing. New Zealand has 96. Taiwan had 486 cases in total and seven deaths. There are just over 8,000 active cases in Australia, 6,000 in the UAE, 1,700 in South Korea, 435 in Vietnam and 569 in fucking China. Here’s a picture of people partying in Wuhan right now:

Water party in Wuhan attracts thousands - CGTN

All of those people are back at work. Do you think that their countries’ economies didn’t take a hit for their hard lockdown strategies? Of course they did. But by locking down quickly and effectively, their COVID-19 nightmare lasted months. For those of us who locked down too late, or who’s people questioned or ignored the governments’ instructions, this nightmare is probably going to stretch out for years. A complete economic standstill for a few months will not yield worse results than a stumbling economy that struggles over the course of several years. Oh, and in New Zealand and Australia, people who were forced out of work were handed relief checks to suppress the economic impact of the virus on households, but understandably some nations aren’t equipped to do so, so that point is more of an aside.

At the end of the day, however, the economic argument is drastically flawed. A complete lockdown may hurt, but it won’t kill. The people who are back at work now in the countries that locked down quickly can attest to that, as they happily recover from the COVID-19 outbreak. And to the neoclassical economists out there, it says a lot about the predominantly capitalist global economy that it has so easily collapsed and how many people are being left behind, who have been vulnerable all this time. Perhaps the idea of a social safety net may have helped the world weather the storm of a global pandemic.

But, really, when someone tells you that they’re worried about the impact, economically, what they actually mean is “my stock portfolio” will take a hit. Or they are struggling to come to terms with the fact that their own bills are starting to pile up and have learned to sympathise with the people who have been enduring financial struggles for far, far longer than they have.

Being forced to wear a mask is draconian

No. It isn’t. When people were living under draconian regimes like Kulaks in the Soviet Union or ethnic Vietnamese in Khmer Rouge Cambodia or Jews in Nazi Germany, I’m pretty sure they weren’t thinking, “this is hardcore, but it’d be even worse if my government was forcing me to stay at home.”

And besides this… what do you think laws about declaring a national state of emergency are there for? We live in unprecedented times! The rules of society are suspended when you’re in the middle of a global crisis. During World War 2, do you think the English were questioning their government’s motives when they were told to seek refuge from bombings in the London Underground? No, they just did it, because it is obvious that it was not the time for some kind of edgy civil disobedience. How far the human race has fallen that this is even an argument. Are masks 100% effective? No. Refer back to this article and you’ll see that report on studies that say a mask may not be fully effective in protecting yourself, but that it almost certainly protects others. So, your refusal to wear a mask is nothing short of selfish.

And we already have laws that prevent this kind of selfishness, which literally exist in every society today. It’s called the rules of the road. You cannot drive recklessly and you have to obey the speed limit and you have to wear a seatbelt for your own protection. We’ve addressed the morality of the mask argument decades ago in every country in the world with traffic laws. It is 100% convertible when it comes to the mask argument. By refusing to wear a mask you’re not only a danger to yourself but to everybody else. And if you fail to see this, and recognise how irrational it is, you have no credibility.

COVID-19 isn’t that big of a deal, it kills as many people as seasonal flu

Let me make something very, very clear: Just because I think there’s an urgent need to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak and think lockdowns and masks are necessary, doesn’t mean I think it’s okay for other people to die from other illnesses or unnatural causes. The fact that I even have to say this says a lot about the proponents of the argument and their narrow-minded approach to solving problems. Yet those healthcare issues are not as pressing an issue as COVID-19 right now.

Now, while the vast majority of people infected with COVID-19 have survived it, we are still looking at a global death toll of 780,000 and counting. That is disturbing no matter how you cut it.

And while it may only be as deadly as the common cold, it is still a NEW disease, about which we don’t have much research. The long-term effects are unclear and will remain unclear for some time yet. Twenty-two million infections and counting is nothing to scoff at either and perhaps we might want to avoid as many infections as possible, in case there are symptoms that present AFTER you leave the hospital.

There is plenty of evidence of lung damage, brain damage, heart damage and damage to the digestive system that may stick with recovered COVID-19 patients for the rest of their lives. We simply do not know, because the disease hasn’t been around for long enough for us to tell. The common cold, however, has a recorded history going back thousands of years and there is solid science on the treatment for it that stretches back for about a century. There are vaccines for the seasonal flu. It may take some time yet before a COVID-19 vaccine is developed.

And more so, the reason why people die from the flu is not always due to the severity of the virus, it’s because they lack access to healthcare or medication. That is a separate social issue that still needs to be tackled, but is a long-term goal, while the immediate threat of COVID-19 is capturing our attention right now.

#CovidiotsMustFall

I’m probably missing out on some key points of disagreements with “covidiots”, but those can be addressed at a different time. However, if you are one of the people that held these beliefs and you were fooled into them by the anti-scientific arm of media and our civil society, hopefully you can see the flaws in the logic behind some of these shocking arguments. If you continue to hold these beliefs, however, you are a “Covidiot”. I’m sorry, I know it’s not civil to discuss issues by insulting people – but neither I or the world has time for civility when pathetic conspiracy theories are being espoused at the cost of people’s lives.

The “covidiots” are a danger to our society and now is not the time to be edgy and contrarian. Now is the time to listen to scientists and medical professionals, to follow the examples of nations like New Zealand and Taiwan who have successfully tackled the virus. We cannot follow the advice of politicians like Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro, who have refused to enforce lockdowns or mandate wearing masks, claiming coronavirus isn’t a big deal, that it’s an imposition on your freedom or that they’re interested in the preservation of their economies. The results of that approach to the virus have been devastating (5.4 million cases and 170,000 deaths in the United States, 3.4 million cases and 110,000 deaths in Brazil). And if those figures, in comparison to the figures cited by the countries and leaders who supported lockdowns and wearing masks, can’t convince you, then nothing can and you’re a lost cause.

This article is an opinion piece written by an Essential Millennial writer and reflects their opinion, not that of The Essential Millennial.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. KeithAppleton

    24th Aug 2020 at 2:53 pm

    I think you are simplifying an issue about which it is possible to have more nuanced opinions. In an open society, everything is up for debate, especially a move as drastic and unprecedented as a global lockdown.

    On the mask debate, I personally don’t have a problem with wearing a mask when I go out and feel that it’s ultimately a minor inconvenience that we shouldn’t really be arguing about. If that’s a norm we’ve decided on, fine. Not interested in dying on that hill. But let’s also not pretend that guidance around masks has been consistent throughout the pandemic. The WHO and the US’s CDC have changed their guidance from no to yes.

    Lockdowns I have more of a problem with, and I don’t think that makes me a moron, thank you very much. When else in the history of the world has a lockdown happened at this scale? Why didn’t we do this for SARS, or Bird Flu, or Ebola or Swine Flu, or any of those diseases? What was different about those diseases and how they spread that they didn’t necessitate this kind of reaction?

    And why does the narrative keep changing? At first we were locking down to get the hospitals ready for the covid surge, with the acknowledgement that we couldn’t stop the virus but only slow it down (flatten the curve) and at some point that transformed into locking everyone down until the virus is either eradicated by our virtuous actions or a vaccine is ready (which might never happen).

    Your characterisation of people who argue against lockdown on economic grounds is a strawman. As one of said people, I’ve been very happy with my stock portfolio, which has been pumped by US stimulus, and on a personal level I could stay in lockdown for the rest of the year, because I’m able to work from home. Not everyone is so fortunate. And you can recognise the existence of scarcity without being a libertarian stereotype.

    You manage to contradict your own stance about the economic problems of lockdown in the space of this quite brief article.

    > The second you suggest providing a universal basic income payment for the duration of the pandemic, you’ll be thrown under the bus as a “commie” or “radical leftist”.

    well actually

    > Oh, and in New Zealand and Australia, people who were forced out of work were handed relief checks to suppress the economic impact of the virus on households, but understandably some nations aren’t equipped to do so, so that point is more of an aside.

    In a South African context especially, locking down as hard as we did while pretending we had the resources to cushion the blow has been and will continue to be extremely devastating. I am sick of this argument about lives versus livelihoods that just assumes we can stop all activity and start it up again later without major unintended consequences. The economy and people’s lives are extremely complex, interwoven systems, and to just disrupt large swathes by government fiat is highly destructive and irresponsible, especially when it’s clear to everyone that aid will not be forthcoming. In a perfect world, perhaps we could just stop the economy for a bit and give everyone UBI, but sadly we live in reality, where people need to work to survive, and there simply isn’t money for UBI between all the other social services already provided and the corruption premium. Hand-wringing about inequality and worker exploitation and those awful libertarians is not going to stop people dying.

    On a purely practical level, there are a lot of arguments to be made about whether lockdown was even the right way of stopping the spread. Why did we confine people to their homes, to sit in close quarters with each other, and act as though beaches and outdoor public thoroughfares were hotbeds of disease? We’ve never acted like that for the flu, which spreads in a similar way. There’s an argument to be made that many poor people would be much safer at their workplaces, with the resources to sanitise and mask up, than stuck in a small home cheek-to-jowl with the rest of their families, going out only to buy food at a essential shops crowded with people who had nowhere else to go.

    You praise New Zealand and Taiwan for their handling of the pandemic, but neglect to mention that they are both island nations, giving them natural advantages in that sphere. Your argument about the long term effects of the virus can be just as well applied to the long term effects of NZ’s virus policy. They may have no cases now, but they’ll have to open their borders sooner or later, and then what? Once the rest of the world has herd immunity, NZ will be forced to lockdown and open up over and over, prolonging the negative impact of the virus. Or they’ll just get sick of it, open up, and let the old and comorbid die of COVID a year or so later than they otherwise might have.

    All lockdown has achieved in most places where it’s been implemented is to privilege people with a new and sexy disease over people with less exciting conditions. We care deeply about all the people who die from COVID, but fuck you if you died from TB because you were too scared of COVID to go out and get your medication from the clinic. The COVID death numbers that are endlessly parroted pale in comparison with deaths from most other causes, deaths that have been with us for many years, but we don’t care about them because they aren’t reported on the news every night. Excess deaths caused by lockdowns are already being shown to be substantial, both here and in the UK, and it is extremely simplistic thinking to pretend that all or even most of these are attributable to the virus.

    None of this is to say that COVID isn’t real or dangerous, but globally we have massively overreacted to it. Personally, I was on board with Cyril’s initial state of disaster announcement and doing the whole santise, social distance, don’t hold crowded events thing (and yes, masks too) but everything on top of that has been irresponsible, unnuanced and will likely be shown to have been more damaging than the virus itself.

    • Kyle Smith

      8th Nov 2020 at 10:48 am

      Hi Keith,
      Firstly, thanks for the response. Even though we clearly disagree… radically… I do like challenging my own ideas. The article is a bit old, but the proof has been in the pudding and results have proven me right.
      Take Sweden, for example, and compare it to Denmark as a “no lockdown v lockdown” argument. Sweden currently has 146,461 cases and 6,022 deaths. Denmark has 54,742 cases and 740 deaths. Economically, Sweden’s economy contract by 8.6% in the second quarter of 2020. Denmark’s contracted by 6.8%.

      So, the fact is, locking down is the best approach when comparing apples with apples. It just is. The US is a prime example of what happens when you politicise it and don’t have a cohesive strategy in place to lockdown. New Zealand is an example of what a clear lockdown strategy can do to eradicate the virus.
      Oh and as for why we never locked down for SARS and MERS? They… they did. And they learned that lesson the hard way. So when COVID-19 broke out, all Asian and Middle Eastern countries locked down immediately and have been relatively unaffected by the virus, compared to other parts of the world. As for H1N1/swine flu… there were hectic travel bans and long periods of quarantine for travellers in and out of America. AND H1N1 isn’t as infectious as the airborne COVID-19.

      Whoever’s feeding you information – no doubt they’re these libertarians like Jerm or whomever, feed you either false or cherry-picked information without context. I know how they operate and have heard every argument you made here before.

      As for whether these First World strategies are applicable in a South African context… I will say it’s a fair point. We simply lack the infrastructure and social cohesion to effectively tackle this. But, I’d point you to a place like Rwanda, where COVID hit far earlier than it hit us. Read up on their strategy of lockdowns, contact tracing, testing drives and delivering food packages. It worked incredibly effectively. They have 5,213 cases and 36 deaths – and they are a far poorer country than we are. And their economic GROWTH is projected at 5.1% for 2020.

      I’m sorry, you can take the livelihood v lives approach all you like and repeat these recited talking points all you like, but the facts just aren’t on your side and I have the data to back it up.

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