The French President has declared his country is at “war” with COVID-19. During a televised address to the nation on 16 March, Emmanuel Macron said that defeating COVID-19 would require a “call to arms”:
Believe me when I say, I know that what I’m asking you is unprecedented. But the circumstances demand it. War are at war. Certainly, in a healthcare war. We are not fighting an army, nor are we fighting another nation. But the enemy is here – invisible, elusive, it progresses. It thus requires a call to arms. We are at war.
Across the world, governments are introducing measures considered absolutely extraordinary during peacetime. In Europe, both Spain and Italy are currently under full lockdown. Schools have been shuttered, either nationally or locally, in every single EU Member State. Museums, galleries, bars, café and restaurants are being ordered closed in most countries. Borders are being shut and travel restrictions put into place.
Parts of the economy are being redirected to increase healthcare capacity. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is asking manufacturers to switch their production lines to making ventilators. The luxury goods giant LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton, has announced it will shift its perfume production lines to hand sanitiser for French hospitals.
Local support groups are organising on social media. Volunteers are rallying to help people self-isolating by delivering groceries and medicine, walking dogs, or offering other assistance. In Wales, the health spokesperson for the Local Government Association has said councils will “arrive at a position where we will want to call on an army of volunteers”.
Individuals are being asked to make sacrifices for the greater good. The Irish Health Service Executive says the most at-risk groups are the elderly, those with weak immune, or those with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure. Social distancing measures are being implemented in many countries to ease pressure on healthcare systems (which everybody needs access to), and to help protect the most vulnerable groups in society.
However, many governments are worried about public fatigue with restrictions on normal life. How much disruption are people willing to accept? Do they see the reasons for changing our behaviour so radically in such a short space of time? How long can such measures be maintained?
How many freedoms are you willing to sacrifice for the greater good? Will the public get fatigued with lengthy restrictions on normal life? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!