While the world is gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, something more sinister may be brewing just beneath the surface.
Governments around the world and at all levels are cracking down on citizens in an effort to contain the virus, but what some doctors are saying could justify draconian measures being enacted by world leaders.
Something that Dr. Michael Ryan, epidemiologist and executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, said in a WHO virtual news conference March 30 could be a harbinger of a Big Brother approach to fighting COVID-19.
When asked whether it is more effective to quarantine in place at home or centrally to contain a virus, Ryan said the only way to contain the virus during a home quarantine would be for officials to start knocking on doors.
“The most likely person to become a case is someone who’s been a significant contact of another case,” he said, “and at the moment, in most parts of the world due to lockdown, most of the transmission that’s actually happening in many countries now is happening in the household at family level.
“In some senses, transmission has been taken off the streets and pushed back into family units. Now we need to go and look in families to find those people who may be sick and remove them and isolate them in a safe and dignified manner.”
Something about his use of the word “dignified” is chilling, as if there is a proper manner for removing a private citizen from his or her family and home.
He went on to say that “the transition from movement restrictions and shutdowns and stay-at-home orders can only be made if we have in place the means to be able to detect suspect cases, isolate confirmed cases, track contacts and follow up on the contacts’ health at all times and then isolate any of those people who become sick themselves.”
Although it seems reasonable to a doctor to track those who have come in contact with the disease to make sure they aren’t infecting others, being in the midst of a pandemic makes it nearly impossible without eventually sending government officials to visit all citizens to check on their health.
Measures such as these can easily be turned into tyrannical government involvement in the lives of private citizens.
Maria Van Kerkhove, another infectious disease epidemiologist and COVID-19 technical lead for the WHO Health Emergencies Program, tweeted a similarly subtle yet worrisome indication of the types of measures that might be used to justify authoritarian control.
“‘(Repeat with me)’… love this! Find, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact, engage all people, physical distancing, hand hygiene, all-of-society, all-of-government approach, etc. = comprehensive strategy to beat #COVID19,” she tweeted in response to a comment about masks being important but not enough.