Sometimes an issue arises to which there is no obvious answer. The usual appraisal of risk cannot apply because those risks cannot be quantified. There is instead only uncertainty, which means a decision has to be taken on the basis of judgement alone.
As the FT reports this morning, one such question relates to when to end the lockdown. As they nite:
Boris Johnson is facing a split at the top of his cabinet over the speed with which Britain exits its coronavirus lockdown, while also confronting claims he was “missing in action” when the crisis first hit.
The prime minister, recovering from Covid-19 at Chequers, faces a big test when he returns to work in deciding whether the economy can start to reopen before the virus has been completely suppressed.
Michael Gove, cabinet office minister, and Rishi Sunak, chancellor, are among those arguing for a swifter reopening, while Matt Hancock, health secretary, wants to crush the virus before the lockdown is eased.
So what is the right choice? And what are the decision criteria?
The US right-wing think that each person has their own right to choose to lockdown.
Some governments have been considerably harsher than the UK.
But everywhere, sometime lockdown will end.
However, the question remains, what are the trade-offs?
How many deaths will we accept?
Would they happen whether we lockdown or not?
Is lockdown just about keeping death rates within manageable limits at a point of time rather than stopping them?
And what is the price of that?
What then should that happen given what we know, which includes the fact that we do not know when, or if, we will get a vaccine.
And we do not know if people can be reinfected with Covid -19 with any certainty.
And that we do not know what the current reinfection rate is, but know that unless it is less than 1 the best we can hope for is continuing infection at the current rate until herd immunity is finally created.
We do know that the elderly are especially vulnerable to this disease.
We do know that the economic cost of the economy being closed is very high.
We do know that lockdown conditions cannot be maintained forever: however willing people are now, that cannot survive for good.
So what are the conditions for easing lockdown? And what are the trigger points? The government has to face this decision and will, whatever happens, in this case get it wrong in part, for which they will not on this occasion be wholly to blame: we would all make errors in this situation. Any thoughts?
My view is that gradual easing will be necessary to maintain social order sometime soon and that the death rate is, anyway, going to be much higher than almost anyone now talks about, come what may in this and other countries: but that does not mean we can stop taking the issue seriously. Partial lockdowns are going to be here for a considerable time to come, I suspect, with recurring fuller episodes lasting weeks at a time, because the mayhem of massive death rates that might otherwise occur are at present unimaginable within our society.
But it's just one opinion. I am genuinely interested in those others here have.