Proposing a new strategy to deal with Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions

Proposing a new strategy to deal with Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions

As a reaction to the first Covid-19 wave, we saw widespread lockdown. In Berlin, where I’m based, this was pretty much based on sectors. If your sector wasn’t considered critical (system relevant is the term used in Germany), i.e. grocery stores, media, first responders, etc., then your org went into lockdown. Meaning it was pretty much all schools and daycare centers; all shopping malls; all regular shops; all restaurants; etc., etc., etc. Online shops, for example, stayed open.

Then, sector by sector, things came out of lockdown. Restaurants, bars, shops, schools, daycare centers.

Going forward, I’m strongly proposing a different approach: Much stricter enforcement of rules coupled to more targeted lockdowns.

We need to find a way to be flexible with adjustments so we can get through the next wave(s) of Covid-19. I think it’s important to think of this as a marathon rather than a sprint.

In our neighborhood, and to maybe a lesser degree across the city, there are countless bars, restaurants and others who completely ignore even basic Covid-19 hygiene: No face masks, no appropriate spacing, no registration of customers for contact tracing — all of which are legally required and also make sense. Most supermarket staff in our usual shopping range wear their masks only on their chin, or have stopped wearing masks altogether.

Now this might not apply elsewhere to that degree, but needless to say this is completely inacceptable.

Especially since in the current model, as per Covid Wave 1, if the infection numbers rise to a certain threshold then sector by sector will be shut down again. And daycares were among the first to close and the last to open. So that lack of hygiene and disregard for the law directly punishes us as a family with two working parents. It’s a direct threat to our livelihood.

So here’s what I propose to do going forward:

  • Stop the blanket lockdowns for sectors (i.e. all schools, all restaurants, etc.), so that those business owners and other orgs that take appropriate precautions can go about their business.
  • Simultaneously, check and enforce compliance with those rules ruthlessly. 3 strikes or 1, if a restaurant allows for large parties without appropriate spacing that’s not an oversight, it’s a conscious decision. If they don’t register their customers as legally required, this isn’t an oversight, it’s by design. In cases of flagrant disregard for the safety of others like this, immediately shut down the restaurant — for 3 months or for good, I’m not sure.

Currently, those businesses externalize all the risk while they make a quick buck. (Consider this incident of a restaurant that apparently hosted a party that led to 15 known infections — and maybe more as of yet unknown. In Germany, about 4.4 percent of known infections end up deadly. This restaurant enabled all those infections and maybe countless more as those 15 went about their lives, and yet might come out with a small fine. This is not ok in any way.)

We need to align incentives — both positive and negative — so that violators are punished and those who by and large respect the rules do not get punished for the others’ irresponsibility. Equally, it cannot — must not — be that our kid isn’t allowed to learn and play with his peer group in day care because some irresponsible egoists enable crowded, unsafe, illegal parties in and for their business.

This isn’t rocket science. There’s not even that much nuance here: If you risk someone else’s livelihood for a quick buck, you shouldn’t be allowed to be in business.