In Europe, increasingly more politicians and journalists are saying that the world has to prepare for a new, post-coronavirus reality. Former British Tory leader William Hague believes that we will soon see the creation of a new age of the surveillance state — an age led by China.
If you are active on Twitter, there seem to be two groups of people. The first are those who take the health threat posed by the new Chinese coronavirus very seriously indeed. They demand a lockdown and want swift and efficient government action to take on this deadly new enemy. The second group consists of those who think it’s all some kind of mass hysteria. COVID-19, these people say, isn’t much worse than the common flu. They do not want a lockdown, are extremely suspicious of anyone suggesting the development of a vaccine, and constantly argue that the economic costs of the current measures are much worse than the death toll could ever be.
Those are the two groups on Twitter. In real life, however, there is a third group — a group that’s clearly very sizable and to which I belong: a group that recognizes the dangers posed by the new coronavirus, that demands action from the government to stop it, but that’s simultaneously worried about the economic effects of the lockdown and about other measures now proposed by the powers that be.
If the Chinese virus had been given the freedom to roam about freely, health care systems around the world would soon have been overwhelmed. Many people would have died directly from the virus — that spreads much faster than the common flu, and that appears to be deadlier on top of it — and many others would have died because they couldn’t receive the critical care they needed. It would’ve been absolutely horrible. The entire world would’ve been transformed into Lombardy, Italy. People would literally have died out on the streets. So yes, the governments of the world had to do something.
Having said that, we’re now getting into extremely dangerous territory with regards to how far governments are willing to go in the battle for public health. Case in point: Former Tory leader William Hague simply assumes in The Telegraph that we have now entered a new age. One best described as “1984 in real life” (my words).
I mean, just read this:
Third, and less obviously, China will gain from the new age of the surveillance state that will be summoned into existence around much of the world in the coming months. Already some countries are requiring citizens to wear a wrist-tag that sounds an alert if they are too far from their phone for their movements to be tracked. Dozens of states will conclude that their only way of getting their economies to work will be to isolate infected individuals, requiring intrusive technology and invasion of privacy. And guess who will be well placed to supply the systems, software, and data, and to do so quickly and on a large scale? Yes, of course, China.
For Hague, this is clearly a fait accompli. But why? It seems that we’re making daily progress with regards to the treatment of COVID-19. As PJ Media’s own Tyler O’Neill put it Tuesday, “Hydroxychloroquine is saving lives and President Donald Trump deserves praise for advocating the malaria drug as a potential cure for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.”
If anything, then, it looks like we certainly can be hopeful that we can soon go back to normal. But the powers that be — not only in the UK but also in my home country of the Netherlands where the government is talking about forcing everybody to install a coronavirus app that tracks their whereabouts and their health status — are saying the exact opposite. Worse, they just assume that we’re going to get a surveillance state the likes of which we have never seen before. Not, they’ll say, because they like it — oh no — but because we have to.
Of course, that’s complete and utter nonsense — both on a practical and on an ethical level. Scientists and doctors are making more progress every single day. If we combine their progress with mass testing and the isolation of those with the virus, we will soon be able to get the economy going again.
It almost makes you wonder whether governments were waiting for an excuse to start this “age of the surveillance state.” Nah, that can’t be. Can it?
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