There are a few countries that decided to not go into formal/legal lockdown, but rather aim for herd immunity. The UK was the first to do this officially, but after two weeks abandoned the policy. Those two weeks cost them dearly and they now have the highest infection and death rates in Europe.
Sweden famously is also following this approach. They haven’t done so well in the last few weeks, but the jury is still out on whether they’ll come out better in the long run with herd immunity in their population. They have actually mainly stayed at home and not spending and will experience a 7% drop in GDP compared to an 8% drop for Germany and Denmark by comparison. So it’s not as if their approach is an uncontested success so far.
I have been to Sweden many times and have Swedish clients. They’re a small country, without crowding, disciplined, pragmatic and socially aware (ie they think of others and are not rugged individualists). If anyone can make it work, they can. I hope they do. But either way, they’re not really an exemplar for anywhere else.
It’s more instructive possibly to look at Brazil. Their President has steadfastly refused to lockdown and has insisted the economy keep going.
As of today, Brazil is the world’s number 3 current hotspot for Covid 19, following the United States and Russia (if we consider only China’s official stats, anyway). Brazil confirmed 330,890 people infected, registering 1,001 daily coronavirus deaths on Friday alone taking total deaths to 21,048. Their graphs are all still exponentially upward. The worst is yet to come.
Brazil is a large, crowded, bustling, vibrant country with significant wealth inequality and not much discipline in societal systems. They’re similar to South Africa and a group of countries like India, Iran, Egypt, Indonesia and Mexico that have similar profiles.
Brazil shows what would happen if these countries did not lockdown for the past few weeks. And it doesn’t look good.
In South Africa, we will hear news in the next few days that we can continue opening our economy further. We must do so slowly, carefully and safely, ensuring physical distancing, mask wearing, sanitisation and temperature checks everywhere. If we don’t, we could end up just like Brazil, Russia and the US, and we will have wasted the “circuit breaker” that lockdown has been on the virus.
This is not a disease to take lightly or ignore. Let Brazil’s numbers be a dose of reality for all of us.