I don’t use the title’s words to describe a syndrome resulting from chronic infection with the coronavirus. I don’t have enough ready data to know if such a syndrome even exists. Rather, I refer to the long term consequences of the virus’s effects on society in its broadest definition.
The remarkable truth is how little effect all the various countermeasures against the virus have had. The data from the most autocratic countries are suspect, but China seems bent on committing urban suicide. Russia, except for a week’s lockdown has ignored the virus.
Much has been made about the different approach to the disease in Sweden by comparison to the rest of the developed world. The graph below shows both the case burden and mortality data in Sweden and the US. There’s not a whole lot of difference. Both cases and deaths spike in winter. The last spike in deaths was greater in the US than in Sweden, though the latter had more cases. But Sweden by not closing schools and businesses emerged with the best economy in Europe. The US by contrast has committed financial seppuku.
That lockdowns would prove ineffective was known from the start of the epidemic. Read some of the articles published here in March and April of 2020. The simple reason for the failure of these repressive measures is that you can’t simultaneously imprison everyone, as China is slow to realize – society will collapse. The virus will still circulate and infect those who eventually emerge. Remember, this is the first epidemic in human history in which the healthy were quarantined. As predicted here, and elsewhere, the coronavirus has mutated into a more contagious, but less lethal variant – the norm for new respiratory viruses. It’s almost certain to be a permanent resident among the world’s population, but one against which a zero policy is sure to fail.
The effects of vaccination are hard to tease out, but it seems likely that the vaccine has at best a transitory effect on those most vulnerable to the infection – ie, the infirm irrespective of age. The unequivocal beneficiaries of “universal” vaccine administration are the companies that manufacture them.
I’ll limit the rest of this discussion to the five large English speaking countries – the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The delightful surprise that encouraged these governments was that you could abrogate basic human rights in the name of public health and have most of your population surrender these rights without much protest. Canada destroyed basic banking rights. Australia imprisoned those it considered successors to the lepers of the Hebrew bible. New Zealand sealed its Island border. The UK elite held secret parties. The US had a shortage of toilet paper, but not of dollar bills. Also apparent to those in power was that, despite millennia of evidence to the contrary, government could still convince a large part of its electorate that it had the ability to improve their lot no matter how audacious its behavior. None of these governments responded to the epidemic with sober, measured, and insightful countermeasures.
There is nothing that government can do efficiently and frugally. So it is best to stop it from doing anything that cannot be done by others. Of course, the rent seekers of the world, who now may be in the majority, will never agree to such a proposition. Still, it would be best if government fought the wars and only did a few other things that I can’t name now. Governments are terrible at fighting wars, but they are fought against other governments, so eventually one side may win. The US military complains that it hasn’t the budget to meet its responsibilities though its fisc is more than the next eight largest militaries combined. Like a fine marbled steak, the fat and meat are so intertwined that one cannot be removed without sacrificing the other.
Of course, the “democratic” center seeks to accrue ever more power which inversely affects the liberty of its residents. Authority is best kept local, not that local governments are any more efficient or less corrupt than their bigger siblings. Their utility is that the individual stands a better chance in dealing with a nearer and smaller government than with a distant and larger one.
Thus, COVID was a gift from providence that allowed the diversion and creation of factitious wealth distributed like party favors provided the recipients behaved as ordered or expected. The favored prescription for a respiratory infection was money rather than medicine. Everyone professes astonishment that inflation followed like a tsunami after an undersea earthquake.
The most abjured commandment after the sixth, first do no harm , often requires doing nothing. The one thing a government cannot do no matter how dire the need is remain motionless. Thus, mandates, irrespective of nature or need, are sure to flow, like dollars spewing out of the Federal Reserve, from governments that will not relinquish their new found leash. COVID will be long for reasons unrelated to epidemiology or inflammation. Governments that have successfully breached the limits long set on their reach will not return to prelapsarian norms. The liberal democracies of the West are in for a helluva ride.