Fortunately, there are few people who deny the existence of COVID-19 which has claimed many lives and made others desperately ill. Although conspiracy theorists usually accept that coronavirus is contagious, some have perpetuated real fear around its management. But is the common enemy the virus or the government? Here’s a fresh look at eight key claims or questions that are often raised.
‘Why should we have a lockdown when there are so few deaths?’
The view that ‘only’ 600 Australian deaths makes government lockdowns an overreaction simplistically ignores the logic that the figure would be much higher without such intervention. What the number might well have been is impossible to say. Therefore, people’s minimisation of the number of deaths is also impossible to fathom.
‘We should have built up herd immunity.’
The idea that countries like Sweden have better managed the virus due to almost eradicating it ignores the much higher death rate they have been prepared to accept – almost ten times the deaths and much less than half the overall population, compared with Australia.
‘We’re ruining the economy for the sake of the elderly and the sick.’
That many victims are elderly or suffer because of pre-existing illnesses does not make them expendable. Everyone’s parents, grandparents or other loved ones deserve to be safeguarded by proactive intervention. Most of us are not in the hot seat of decision making on what controls are needed. Opposition to the curtailing of our freedoms elevates the right of the majority while similarly disregarding the needs of a society to protect its most vulnerable.
‘What about the mental health cost of a severe lockdown?’
The health impact of the economic fallout is impossible to assess. The cause of suicide is naturally difficult to measure. A recent report from the Victorian Coroner’s Court even showed the rate of suicides in 2020 is consistent with that seen in previous years. Concern for mental health sufferers is not unimportant to governments while they simultaneously act to save other lives in imminent danger.
‘The figures misrepresent the true number of cases.’
The idea that numbers of deaths or cases are being inflated by other causes is not without precedent internationally but, in a pandemic, circumstances change rapidly and figures sometimes need to be adjusted. Also, different government or health departments have different areas of focus and time is needed to better coordinate data. The fact still remains that the casualties would indeed be much more severe if we did not resort to the interventions taken in recent months.
‘Most alleged cases are just misdiagnosed flu sufferers.’
Lower flu numbers this year should be expected given the social distancing measures in place. Even the relative emptiness of certain hospital wards is not a reason for scepticism, since the intent was always to ensure hospitals were not swamped and therefore unable to treat any increase in COVID sufferers.
‘Aren’t I entitled to criticise the government?’
Criticisms of governments for funding Jobkeeper rather than, say, aged care also overlook the need to protect all people who are potential carriers, not just potential victims. What governments say and do is in response to a rapidly changing landscape, too, as seen with the backflip on mask-wearing. We might not like government policies or decisions, at times, but can surely allow ourselves to see politicians’ efforts at managing a crisis in the best possible light. As a Christian, I am called to pray for political leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), but many Christians’ criticisms sadly outweigh their intercessions.
‘Doesn’t the virus have some prophetic significance?’
No, it’s just another deadly virus that needs to be controlled. It’s not a tool of the White House or of China for some greater purpose, either (and if it was, how on earth would everyday citizens know?) The view of some that a COVID-19 vaccine might be infiltrated with microchips that could carry the ‘mark of the beast’ of Revelation 13 are without foundation. This opinion assumes a future fulfilment of the prophecy that is not even universally accepted. Stirring fear to prompt a commitment to Christ is particularly problematic if the foundations of the approach are faulty. Why not, instead, address fear (rather than compound it) by directing people to Christ with an intentionally positive focus?
Finally, scepticism may well be warranted, at times, on matters of social concern and political decision-making. Also, alternative views should clearly be welcomed in a free-thinking society. Nevertheless, the current crisis is not helped by those using extra available time for critiques that then undermine confidence in the management of this pandemic. For those of faith, our society will be best served by investing your time into extra prayer, compassionate support, and positive welfare engagement. The Christian Church should surely look to shine in unity, love and service at a time when the world needs our voice of hope most of all.