Friday 9/25/20

Pandemic and social experiments

Two years ago, at the beginning of the academic year, my daughter told me that she had had to stop using the toilets at school. And like her, many other girls had.

The reason was that someone had decided that from now on all the restrooms in the school would be unisex. Distinguishing between boys 'and girls' toilets could violate the rights of some children to choose their sexuality, which should not be imposed by social conventions.

That innovation, as they explained to us parents, had already been implemented in Sweden. And the Finns, always attentive to everything their neighbors do, did not want to be less progressive.

The goal, to protect children, was noble. But the result was that most young girls, particularly preteens, stopped using school toilets to avoid meeting inside boys of their age. And that ended up causing additional tensions in the school.

This is just one example of a social experiment, and I have nothing against them, but I would prefer that when adults decide to carry them out, they experiment with themselves instead of using kids as guinea pigs.

In these times of the coronavirus pandemic, we have witnessed other experiments. The most famous, both for its risky nature and for the disaster it has caused, has also been carried out in Sweden.

I find it terrifying when someone says that now it is more important to preserve the economy than human lives

When Covid-19 began to spread, the Swedes decided to ignore what other countries were doing and go their own way. In Sweden bars, restaurants, terraces and most schools remained open and people were not confined. The business continued as usual there.

They wanted to achieve herd immunity, but the result is well known: Sweden tops the ranking of deaths (3,871 at the time of writing this article) and contagions among all the Nordic Countries. However, they have achieved something that other countries would like: the damage to the country's economy has been low.

Save the economy

In recent weeks, we saw in Finland a growing temptation to partly imitate the Swedish model. "The economy must be saved," some voices from business and political organizations told us. "The damage to the country can be greater than the loss of a few lives if we do not go back to business," they claimed.

As a result, we have all heard in private conversations all kinds of arguments and reasons in favor of revoking the state of emergency measures.

Some people even said that the situation is not that serious, because those who are dying are old. As if our elders - by the way, the people who contributed the most to building the welfare we enjoy - were not necessary for us, did not deserve our protection and did not love their lives as much as anyone else.

I find it terrifying when someone says that now it is more important to preserve the economy than human lives.

The Government should clarify why meetings of more than 10 adults are forbidden but kids are encouraged to gather in schools by hundreds

At some stage, the Finnish government also flirted with the temptation to put the economy ahead of people's safety. Now they deny it and they claim that their strategy has always been to suppress the virus. But the statements of the authorities are in the newspaper archives and show how they also listened to the siren song of the herd immunity.

Reopening schools

A good example of this erratic policy was the controversial decision to reopen schools, which was rejected by most parents and teachers.

The Government and THL tried to convince us that the virus does not harm children as much as it does adults. This may be true, but it is also true that a child can transmit the coronavirus like any other person and therefore get infected at school and bring death home to their parents or grandparents.

Still, schools reopened on 14 May. A few days later, some ten schools in Helsinki-Uusimaa had to take quarantine measures. In others, students and teachers spend their days outdoors, sometimes wandering through the woods and streets on 'excursions' made up to be less exposed to the virus.

The Government should clarify why meetings of more than 10 adults are forbidden and harsh conditions are imposed for the reopening of restaurants, but kids are encouraged to gather in schools by hundreds.

I want to believe that this is not just another experiment - a limited herd immunization experiment - done with children.