Freedom to and freedom from | Iggy Fenech

    FILE PHOTO: A health worker wearing a protective gear swabs the mouth of a man outside a mobile logistics unit as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Rome, Italy, April 1, 2020. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

    Let me start by saying that I wouldn’t want to be a head of government at this moment in time: COVID-19 has definitely put all of them in a precarious situation where the choice is between saving lives and saving livelihoods. Either way, they lose and we lose. But one thing which I cannot understand about our prime minister is his insistence that calling for stricter measures would be impinging upon our quality of life.

    The term ‘quality of life’ refers to living a life that does not leave you wanting. Of course, how that is achieved – or, rather, how we think we can achieve it – is different to each and every one of us. To some it’s about travelling, to others it’s about being in a loving relationship, and to others its simply getting a job that allows them to make ends meet with some degree of ease. Either way, the end goal here is to be in a comfortable, safe and healthy state, which then leads to emotional peace and even happiness.

    When the prime minister says that putting measures in place to flatten the current wave of coronavirus would be detrimental to our quality of life, I am honestly baffled. While such measures are no fun, their goal is to help retain quality of life. The idea here, in fact, is that while some freedoms are taken away for a short while, in the long run people remain healthy, a key component of quality of life.

    Pandemics are not meant to be easy, and they are tricky things to navigate: just look at the UK, which insisted on not locking down and, once it did, had to continue extending the lockdown, a move which has resulted in the country being plunged into its deepest recession on record. Or take Sweden, which refused a lockdown altogether and had a horrifying number of deaths amongst its elderly.

    In short, I get that imposing measures is going to have some adverse effects, but not putting any measures in place is going to be worse.

    In fact, to ‘protect our quality of life’,

    • our government has opened our airports and ports without imposing testing on arrivals or quarantines. Now we’re being shunned by country after country, meaning we still can’t travel freely, while our tourism sector risks going under as fewer people choose to travel here.
    • our government came up with the spin that we had beaten the virus, and now taxpayers have to fork out money to pay for marketing campaigns which were completely pointless. It also led to organisers losing more money than they needed to. And that’s not mentioning weddings.
    • no restrictions were put in place when it came to visiting old people’s homes or other institutions. Now we have a coronavirus outbreak at Mount Carmel and we may have others soon.
    • we were left to our own devices and now children may not be able to return to school, thus affecting their education. Oh, and if you think ignoring this and reopening the schools will solve the problem, then you’re in for a shock. What do you think is going to happen when there are cases in particular schools? They’re going to be closed down, that’s what.
    • the lives of doctors, nurses and other front liners are being put at risk. We now have 100 nurses in quarantine and doctors rightfully striking.

    When we talk about protecting quality of life, we also need to look at the cost. Is our freedom to organise and attend mass events worth a nurse’s freedom from being exposed to a deadly virus? Is our freedom to travel worth an old or vulnerable person’s freedom from being exposed to a potentially deadly virus? And so on and so forth.

    At the moment, we all need to make sacrifices to make sure that everyone’s quality of life is protected and not just in the short run, because there is no quality of life if the person is dead, if someone is left mourning, or if someone survives the virus but has life-long complications.

    And while we, as individuals, do have to take responsibility for our own actions, the government has to understand that it is there to lead and guide. We simply can’t have our cake and eat it, too, and yet, right now, bar for ‘wear a mask’ and ‘santise your hands’, we’re getting precious little else from the government.