Pretend you just arrived on Earth after a year in space. You step off your spaceship, you see everyone wearing masks – sometimes not one but two – and some wearing blue gloves. You think what deadly disease must be rampant upon planet Earth?

You struggle to determine who is who underneath their mask? You offer a handshake to friends but they recoil sheepishly. You go to embrace your mother but your brother asks you to refrain for now.

You’re told of the massive infections worldwide and that half the world is locked up in their homes – “No one is safe until we’re all safe”.

But there is hope – the vaccines were created in record time – and they are now rolling these emergency use vaccines out across 100s of millions of people and hope to reach billions this year. Soon, children will also be able to get the vaccine to protect their grandparents and neighbours.

“Children are getting the vaccines to protect older people?”, you ask incredulously. “Yes, the virus is especially dangerous to the very elderly and already frail,” is the matter-of-fact response. 

“How many people have died?”, you ask? “Perhaps 2 million yearly. It’s hard to say exactly, countries count deaths differently. Sometimes the symptoms are so mild, people don’t actually notice which is the problem! Sometimes it’s like a cold. Sometimes it’s like a bad flu. And occasionally, its much worse.” They also tell you that “unlike previous pandemics many people spread this disease but don’t have any symptoms”. 

You are told there is a PCR diagnostic test that people undergo to tell if they have the virus – they are the ‘infected’ and must quarantine and everyone they have met must also quarantine. Some Professors of Evidenced-Based Medicine point out that the test has a few issues, flagging-up people who are not infectious, but it is the best we have at present.

You try to summarise in your head. The virus affects older generations disproportionately. That we test to quarantine the healthy even though the test has flaws. That we lock people in their homes. We are rolling out an experimental vaccine across the globe while ignoring natural immunity? Has the world’s response really been proportionate to the size of the risk?  Is it in line with how we manage other risks? Why did they not just stick to the 2019 WHO Pandemic Management Plan?

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