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Policy: Defeating the Coronavirus or Harm Reduction?

Policy: Defeating the Coronavirus or Harm Reduction?

It is possible to effectively combat the coronavirus. The number of countries that have brought their number of new daily infections either to zero or very close to it continues to grow. Examples are Cambodia, China, Bahamas, Cuba, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, New Zealand, Norway, Thailand, Slovakia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vietnam. The only number not capable of exponential growth is zero.

For too many nations, however, infections continue to grow nearly exponentially: Bangladesh, Bulgaria, India, nearly all nations in Ibero-America, Iraq, South Africa, and even Israel, which had brought its cases down almost to zero in mid-May, but which has since seen daily numbers that exceed what had been its late-March peak.

Nations that have aggressively pursued the available health measures — masks, distancing, contract tracing, and isolation / quarantine — have succeeded while those that have taken a fragmented approach face, in the words of WHO head Dr. Tedros, a “long, hard road ahead.”

While the case fatality rate is decreasing in such nations as the United States, due to a combination of younger people being infected and advances in knowledge about how to treat the disease (including the steroid dexamethasone), the question remains: is the goal to crush the virus, allowing life to return to an approximation of its pre-coronavirus status? Or is the intent simply to keep the number of cases and deaths within a range considered acceptable?

Looking a year into the future, it is clear that those societies that have taken very aggressive measures to defeat the coronavirus will be far better positioned to develop and grow than those choosing to tolerate a festering of infection and long-term, half-followed measures at prevention. Far better to deal with the disease aggressively and move on. What’s worse: wearing a mask or waiting a year for your new job to be created?

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