The Sunday Magazine·Personal Essay

A COVID-19 confinement chronicle: week 13 — Michael's essay

“Poorer countries account for three-quarters of the 100,000 new cases detected worldwide each day. And those numbers likely suggest an undercount. Which means if we truly believe the cliché “We are all in this together,” richer countries should be planning huge humanitarian programs now and looking at issues such as debt forgiveness and financial support.”

'As the world begins to re-open, there will be a host of questions ... was the lockdown worth it?'

A worker displays a "Welcome Back!" sign in the window of a store on Queen St. West in Toronto on May 19, 2020 as Ontario enters its first stage of reopening many businesses such as retail stores. (Cole Burston/Bloomberg)
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We just want it to be over. Moving into the fourth month of voluntary quarantine, everybody I know just wants it to end, that we might try to manufacture a new life under unknowable post-pandemic conditions.

As the world begins to re-open, there will be a host of questions, the main one being: was the lockdown worth it? Preliminary data suggest it was very much worth it. That the lockdown saved millions of lives.

Studies reported in the influential journal Nature found that without the lockdown in Europe, an additional three million people would have died from COVID-19.

In the United States, the study showed that without self-isolation and lockdown, there would have been 14 times as many cases of COVID infection. And who knows how many more deaths? The researchers point out that the longer the lockdown, the less likelihood of contracting the disease.

That's the good news for the richer and more developed North. The story of the rest of the world is still bleak.

If we truly believe the cliché 'We are all in this together,' richer countries should be planning huge humanitarian programs now.- Michael Enright

At last count, Brazil was registering 30,000 new confirmed cases a day. Russia and India, about 8,000 cases a day. All told, poorer countries account for three-quarters of the 100,000 new cases detected worldwide each day. And those numbers likely suggest an undercount.

Which means if we truly believe the cliché "We are all in this together," richer countries should be planning huge humanitarian programs now, and looking at issues such as debt forgiveness and financial support.

We've heard from many of you how reading has helped get you through the lockdown. Listening to music is a close second. Philosopher Charles Taylor described how he is calmed by listening to Beethoven's Late Quartets.

But what about the musicians themselves? Many who perform with orchestras or give lessons have seen their income all but disappear.

Two friends, both journalists decided to do something about it. They hired Toronto violist Rory McLeod to perform a porch concert for their neighbours. A great success. There are likely musicians in your area who could use the work.

Graduating senior Yasmine Protho, 18, wears a photo of herself and Class of 2020 on her protective mask amid the coronavirus pandemic. She graduated with only nine other classmates with limited family in attendance at Chattahoochee County High School on May 15, 2020, in Cusseta, Ga. (Brynn Anderson/The Associated Press)

Signs of the times. A number of houses in the neighbourhood have lawn signs congratulating high school students graduating this month. A substitute for a non-graduation graduation: no limos, no tuxedo rentals, no dances, no parties.

High school is the most formative time in a young person's life. What we learn in those years, inside or outside the classroom, will largely determine how we will act in the world.

It is a time of firsts. A first kiss, first love, perhaps. If we are truly blessed, maybe a first car. The first realization that we are different from our parents, that they have their ways and we have ours. Totally different and sometimes in conflict.

It is also a time of self-discovery, when we question who we are, who we want to be and why we are here in the first place.- Michael Enright

It is also a time of self-discovery, when we question who we are, who we want to be and why we are here in the first place.

Above all, it is a time of indelibility. I know someone who can name every person in his graduating class.

Because of the virus and the self-isolation, nothing about this year's graduating class will be forgotten.

The lawn signs are more than a parent's fondest hope for the graduate. They are signs of hope for all of us, that those young men and women coming after us, will work to seek a newer world, gentler than that inherited from their parents.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full essay.

 

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