Amidst the global coronavirus crisis, the Polish government is facing the most dramatic choice it must make since the start of the pandemic. On one side, there is the decreasing number of infections and massive, and mostly understandable, pressure to open the economy and bring back social life.
On the other side, we have real fear that in the case of loosening restrictions, the index of infections and deaths will immediately soar and reach previously unseen levels.
The decision to maintain or even tighten lockdowns throughout the majority of European countries does not stem from nothing. The third wave is real. In the UK, for example, the total number of deaths caused or exacerbated by Covid-19 has just passed 100,000.
A chart prepared by Britain’s Daily Telegraph leaves no doubts: more casualties are occurring as time goes by.
So far, Poland has avoided a true, long-term third wave. This makes it so we once again feel more secure and have started discussing opening the economy. Yet, we are stepping on thin ice. In a few days, we might find ourselves in a situation in which a true, full lockdown will be necessary. This is a disease whose dynamic we cannot entirely predict — both on an individual level and that of entire societies.
The government must decide: do they open up and risk a true catastrophe or maintain current regulations and increase social pressure, risking a social backlash, a drop in polls and other issues associated with that? Yet the latter option also increases chances for a swift and easy exit from the pandemic in spring with the arrival of additional vaccines, of which there will soon be enough for everyone.
The stakes are incredibly high. In addition, the issue of a quick and permanent exit from the pandemic will have political consequences and may decide the United Right’s chances in the 2023 elections.
What should be done?
The costs of persevering for two or three more weeks seem much smaller and less severe than taking the risky option and potentially suffering a British scenario. That means choosing the safe route despite everything, including society’s complete exhaustion with the lockdown and huge social consequences that come with it.
Title image: Participants with national flags and wearing anti-COVID-19 overalls take part in a protest against new pandemic restrictions and planned lockdown during the holiday season before the Health Ministry in Warsaw, Poland, Dec. 19, 2020, AP images.