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Unherd: Lockdown TV – The ZeroCovid debate: can the disease be eliminated?


August 25, 2020

Freddie Sayers interviews Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh. “When I look at people of the Swedish perspective that life can go on, we’re actually aligned on a lot of things,” says Devi Sridhar, the American public health professor currently Chair of Global Public health at Edinburgh and a leading figurehead of the “ZeroCovid” movement. “We’re both against lockdown, we both want social lives to continue, we both want schools back, but we want it done safely.” In order to achieve these goals however, Prof Sridhar’s suggested strategy is the opposite of Sweden’s more laissez-faire approach. Instead of being more permissive, she is calling for governments to follow the Scottish lead and commit to a “ZeroCovid” strategy — ie that any level of Covid-19, no matter how low, is considered unacceptable, and that within national borders, governments should aim to eliminate the virus completely. Liberty achieved through greater suppression, is the paradoxical idea.

Critics will say that the ZeroCovid approach ends up being fanatical, potentially consigning us to years of life-altering restrictions in pursuit of a goal we will never achieve, in response to a threat that doesn’t warrant it in the first place. Yesterday’s announcement by New Zealand that Covid-19 sufferers will be removed to a quarantine facility and Scotland’s drive to require masks in schools will only add to their concerns. But Professor Sridhar clearly believes that concerted activism and short-term pain is a more responsible route back to life as normal — she makes an eloquent case and our thanks to her for such a stimulating discussion.

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