Belmont Club

Rebellion: The Urge to Escape Confinement Is Like a Virus. And It's Contagious.

AP Photo/John Minchillo

As a second wave of infections surged in Europe, lockdown-weary populations sought another way to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Police said “several thousand” people marched through Berlin on Saturday in a silent protest against restrictions. Protesters also rallied in Rome, Warsaw and London against mask-wearing requirements and virus curbs.

Governments across the globe are struggling to keep up with a sharp rise in infections and manage growing public frustration over a new restrictions as the pandemic enters a second wave.

The costs of quarantine were taking their toll even in Spain, initially one of the worst-hit countries in Europe, where a Madrid court rejected government orders to lock down the Spanish capital.

A court in Madrid has rejected strict new lockdown laws imposed on the Spanish capital by the government last week to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The Health Ministry banned 4.8 million people in the city from leaving their local areas except for essential business on Friday.

But regional government chief Isabel Diaz Ayuso opposed the order, saying it would ravage the region’s economy, and that the ministry had no power to impose such curbs.

Israel, which became among the first countries to reintroduce a nationwide lockdown to stop a new rise in infections, saw quarantine evasion begin to break out.

The country that claimed to have handled coronavirus best now has one of the world’s worst outbreaks per capita, according to figures using data from Johns Hopkins University.

At the start of September, it had nearly 200 new cases per million people every day, a higher rate than the horrifying outbreaks in the US and Brazil. …

A noticeable difference between Israel’s first and second waves is the lack of compliance — even defiance — from many people towards the Government’s control measures.

The number of mass gatherings held despite climbing infections triggered an emotional plea from the country’s coronavirus commissioner, Ronni Gamzu.

“Please, no weddings now. No mass gatherings, no illegal gatherings, no disrespect [of regulations] in any restaurant, anywhere,” he said.

All over the world, the poor have had to bear the worst of the costs. “The coronavirus pandemic has thrown between 88 million and 114 million people into extreme poverty, according to the World Bank’s biennial estimates of global poverty.” After decades of rising income, people are getting poorer, so hard up they may actually begin to starve.

The reversal is by far the largest increase in extreme poverty going back to 1990 when the data begin, and marks an end to a streak of more than two decades of declines in the number of the extremely impoverished, which the World Bank defines as living on less than $1.90 a day, or about $700 a year.

The World Bank now estimates a total of between 703 million and 729 million people are in extreme poverty, and that the number could rise further in 2021.

Given these costs, it’s natural that resistance to lockdowns should be rising. The psychology of quarantine fatigue is similar to war-weariness:

 War-weariness is the public or political disapproval for the continuation of a prolonged conflict or war. The causes normally involve the intensity of casualties—financial, civilian, and military. It also occurs when a belligerent has the ability to leave the conflict easily but continues to stay. War-weariness normally leads to a distrust in government or military leadership and can spark protest and anti-war movements.

The greater the costs of conflict, the farther the day of hoped-for victory, the stronger the weariness will be. What begins with popular enthusiasm turns sour as the weeks pass. The bands stop playing and grumbling begins. The euphoria of apparent success over the first wave only to be followed by a second wave is reminiscent of the emotional disappointment which drove the French army to mutiny during the Great War.

The 1917 French Army mutinies took place amongst French Army troops on the Western Front in Northern France during World War I. They started just after the unsuccessful and costly Second Battle of the Aisne, the main action in the Nivelle Offensive in April 1917. General Robert Nivelle had promised a decisive war-ending victory over the Germans in 48 hours; the men were euphoric on entering the battle. The shock of failure soured their mood overnight.

The mutinies and associated disruptions involved, to various degrees, nearly half of the French infantry divisions stationed on the Western Front. The term “mutiny” does not accurately describe events: soldiers remained in trenches and were willing to defend but rejected attack orders. The new commander, General Philippe Pétain, restored morale by talking to the men, promising no more suicidal attacks, providing rest for exhausted units, home leave, and moderate discipline. He held 3,400 courts martial; 554 mutineers were sentenced to death but only 26 were actually executed.

The British medical journal Lancet noted a similar psychological phenomenon associated with prolonged quarantines: “Most reviewed studies reported negative psychological effects including post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger. Stressors included longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, financial loss, and stigma. Some researchers have suggested long-lasting effects.”

The public want to rebuild some of their lives. They cannot indefinitely be ordered to fix masks and charge into lockdown. Perhaps sensing this, the dissidents in the scientific community have proposed alternatives.

Thousands of scientists and health experts have joined a global movement warning of “grave concerns” about Covid-19 lockdown policies.

Nearly 6,000 experts, including dozens from the UK, say the approach is having a devastating impact on physical and mental health as well as society.

They are calling for protection to be focused on the vulnerable, while healthy people get on with their lives …

the movement – known as the Great Barrington Declaration – mirrors some of the warnings in a letter signed by a group of GPs in the UK. …

The movement started in the US.

And the declaration has now been signed by nearly 6,000 scientists and medical experts across the globe as well as 50,000 members of the public.

The lockdown orthodoxy may have had its “Walter Cronkite abandons Vietnam” moment when the WHO admitted that the policy as implemented may be doing more net harm than good: “Recent commentary from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) special envoy on COVID-19 has sparked questions about the legitimacy of lockdowns to stop the spread of coronavirus. ‘We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,’ the WHO’s Dr. David Nabarro says.”

Politicians who have enlarged their powers under the aegis of public health should realize that the desire for freedom eventually overcomes fear. It starts gradually at first but it builds and never goes away. Eventually, freedom — to some — becomes the goal of life itself as depicted in the prison movie, The Shawshank Redemption.

Red: I don’t think you got to be doing this to yourself, Andy. [Referring to his planned escape.] It’s just shitty pipe dreams. I mean, Mexico is way the hell down there, and you’re in here, and that’s the way it is.

Andy: Yeah. Right. That’s the way it is. It’s down there and I’m in here. I guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living or get busy dying.

The urge to escape confinement is like a virus. And it’s contagious.

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