The flattened curve is a direct result of restrictions, and so it is dangerous to infer by analogy that with getting back to work, the curve will remain flat. Australia is far from being out of the woods. The risk associated with undiagnosed asymptomatic cases lingers. The risk of complacency in work and social behaviour is very real. The risk of a second wave, as happened when Singapore eased restrictions, is also very real.
In the absence of a cure, it is widely touted that the virus can be managed as Australia attempts to get back to ‘normal’. Attempting to manage the mystery that is coronavirus, equates to punching at shadows.
The economic stakes are high for the Morrison government. Treasury estimates the mass closure of businesses and activities, designed to stop the spread of coronavirus, is costing the economy a crippling $4 billion a week. The business world is haemorrhaging, but panic-driven curative measures to stop the bleeding could prove fatal if a premature reopening of business led to a second wave of infections, with reimposed lockdowns.
The reality is that business must get back on its feet as soon as possible for national economic reconstruction and social psychological relief from distress and trauma caused by redundancy, bankruptcy, fear of mortgage foreclosure, tenant eviction and much more. And there is the increased likelihood of suicide to consider. For millions of Australians, these are the human costs of a paralysed economy.
But moral dilemmas run deep. Should quickly getting back to work take precedence over the inevitable loss of life? Should death for a minority be the price paid for the psychological and economic wellbeing of the majority?
What is one life worth? Per se, if the lockdown cost to the economy of $4 billion a week saved 100 lives a week, is one human life worth one hundredth of that figure – $40 million? Some would say that life is of infinite worth. Economists, politicians and financially crippled Australians might differ. It is an uncomfortable equation.
In these unprecedented times, Scott Morrison is required to play God in matters of life or death. He and world leaders are expected to navigate unprecedented and uncertain socioeconomic circumstances.
Maybe the prime minister needs some heaven-sent guidance from the man himself.