Saturday, April 11, 2020

CIVIL LIBERTIES IN A POST PANDEMIC SOCIETY by Simon


CIVIL LIBERTIES IN A POST PANDEMIC SOCIETY

I raised this topic to focus on our wishes, hopes, political ambitions and moral choices in the medium term, say over the next 6 to 18months, or so.

The definitions I suggest for the above topic are as follows:

Pandemic – The WHO definition of a contagious illness widely spread  over territories with important level of local transmissions, ie that which we are now suffering.

Post Pandemic (my definition)- the period after the “peak” of contagions in the highest population countries. Scientific opinion expects this to be from around June 2020 onwards.

During the Pandemic
The vast majority of public opinion – with the exception of a few extreme religious and political leaders and odd “conspiracy theorists” – has accepted the need to radically curtail personal and political liberty during the crucial stage of the growth in the epidemic. Initial measures in most countries were defined as “containment” and included (unpoliced) quaranteening, and the questioning of individuals regarding their recent movements and contacts. Most countries are now in the “mitigation” stage which generally involves quaranteening,” lockdowns” , transport restrictions etc. All opinion polls show support, indeed strong support, for these measures, and apparently the more extreme have even higher approval. Everyone accepts that there is a Public Good of greater importance than individual and political freedom. The doubts that have been expressed in public have been more around the issue of economic viability than personal freedom.

Post Pandemic Society
We will arrive at this stage after the very traumatic Pandemic stage and this will condition our mentality, and probably our choices. We must choose a difficult balance between the Public Good and personal freedom and,hopefully, a return to normal political debate.

Some of the options to control, or eliminate, the level of infections, in some countries will include:
·         Isolation (voluntary or forced) of potentially contagious individuals. This may include the ill, the recently recovered and the asymptomatic “carriers” (as defined by tests)

·         The use (voluntary or forced) of mobile phone Apps which both advise individuals about areas of risk, and also track those individuals and apply to them a score, code or colour, based on their movements. Both movements and “scores” are available to the authorities.

·         Using anti body testing, individuals who are deemed to have immunity may be granted more freedoms (rights) than those who are judged not to have anti bodies (as defined by tests)

Such tools may be very useful – perhaps essential – a this stage. The Apps are already in use in China and Singapore (articles available widely including in New Scientist).The issue is to what level we are prepared to accept these measures and whether governments will be prepared to renounce them, or on the contrary, will insist on their necessity on public health grounds, or other grounds. ::


Simon

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