Lockdown Diary: Last Entry

Bengaluru

25/04/2022

Covid- 19 and ending the Lockdown Diary

When the Covid-19 lockdowns began in March 2020, I began writing notes everyday as a lockdown diary. I wrote continuously for a year and then intermittently thereafter. It went on for 572 days and  as cities, travel and workplaces opened up after the second wave, writing about daily life under lockdowns and restrictions began falling off the list. It ceased completely by December 2021. 

Looking back, these have been incredible two years. The scale of impact and disruption is likely to make it the most significant event of our generation. I had often speculated how this would end and how I would conclude writing the lockdown diaries. Here it is. The pandemic is not over yet. Healthcare institutions are still debating if the pandemic can now be declared as endemic. Vaccines have made their way to more than fifty percent of the world’s population. Mask mandates are mostly removed from most countries. 

Then there is China. With its zero covid policy, it has taken things way too far with the latest lockdowns this month. Visuals of forced quarantine and extreme measures in Shanghai, a city of 26 million people, are almost dystopian. Alex Gutentag writes– 

The era of lockdownism started with shocking footage from China, and so it should end. Videos from Wuhan scared people into fearing an uncontrollable pathogen, but videos from Shanghai reveal the true horror of the Covid age: It is not the virus, but the response to it that has created hell on earth. –

In retrospect, the view that more than the virus it is the response to it that has created hell is spot on. While in the beginning, I was appreciative of the government in India placing restrictions on movement outside homes because it seemed an apt response to what was a highly infectious disease running out of control in the population. Buying time to figure things out was a reasonable strategy. Moreover, we needed to regulate the flow of sick people so that our hospitals were not overwhelmed. Soon, everything was out of control with the infection rate. Another thing that went out of control is the extreme levels of curtailment of public freedom.

In the end, we have paid social, psychological and severe economic costs that hurt and will continue to hurt so many families in the years to come. The setback will take years to step out from.

In hindsight these lines from an earlier entry are an oversimplification in its pitching of an innocent sounding trade-off. 

This is a kind of trade-off that has been hard in many Indian cities and towns – bring down Covid-19 infections vs ensure basic income and citizen services by not using lockdowns. The district administration chose to bring the town to a grinding halt and leave thousands of people with depleted incomes and long term impoverishment. 

The visuals from China this month makes it almost certain that we are unlikely to see lockdowns again in most democratic countries. India seems far from considering that option anymore. Most Indian states have done away with mask mandates. The focus is squarely on economic recovery. 

A combination of fatigue, personal losses, eroded incomes and insecurity about the future has brought back people on the streets and into their workplaces. Lockdowns may not happen again and should not. 

With that, the lockdown diary must also end.

All the Lockdown Diary entries are listed here.

3 thoughts on “Lockdown Diary: Last Entry

  1. Well, Sachin, since you began your lockdown diary with a broken leg, I thought I would honour its ending by breaking mine. Not as bad, though I might need surgery. 😦

  2. Has been an interesting read, every single post in this series. Just like the writing, the reading has happened from many cities, through a multitude of lens, through the lockdown and later. A compendium would be a neat idea maybe.

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