Arnold Hoogerwerf

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Total lockdown vs. herd immunity

So, yesterday was quite a surreal day over here in the Netherlands. It was the first, sunny day of ‘the ‘Covid19’ lockdown, the Dutch way’. Instead of a total lockdown like China, Italy and now Spain and France, the Netherlands are opting for a controlled spreading of the Corona virus throughout the population.

By taking less stringent measures, society will be less disrupted, but a lot of healthy, less vulnerable people (possibly up to 60% of the population) will get sick with mild symptoms of Corona over the next coming months. This way, a kind of herd immunity will be established; a human shell protecting the elderly and the weak.

From a philosophical perspective, this is the ultimate act of solidarity one can ask from a whole nation. And hardly making any chance of succeeding, one would think. Yet that is exactly what our prime minister asked for during his televised speech yesterday evening.

It was a speech like no other I’ve seen on this subject, in which he basically acknowledged that there’s no use fighting this virus, because ultimately it will win, as long as there’s no vaccine or a certain threshold of immunity among the population. A humble and vulnerable position to take as a leader of 17 million, but it surely resonated with many open minded individuals. I’m in no way a fan of prime minister Rutte (he’s a liberal technocrat, I’m a progressive social democrat), but his speech convinced me too.

Still, I’m afraid that this policy won’t last long, mainly because it already is being politicised heavily. Many suspect this story is being used as a neoliberal excuse upfront for all the economical damage that will follow from the measures taken. Furthermore, if no other country in Western Europe will take equal measures, in the long run, our own ‘little herd’ immunity will make no chance against the total lockdown surrounding us.

The speech (in Dutch) can be found here