Anti-lockdown protests ignore social responsibility for egotistical “freedom”

It’s unacceptable to risk the health of others with poorly considered arguments against quarantine

Protestors in Vancouver put themselves at risk by ignoring social distancing guidelines. Photo: Nick Procaylo / PNG

By: Michelle Young, Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed many bustling routines into dull days. People have been advised to stay home, avoid non-essential travel to “flatten the curve,” and ensure COVID-19 doesn’t overwhelm the healthcare system. While a small minority, some in BC feel that these measurements are oppressive. In April and May, these protestors marched the streets of Vancouver, flailing their signs and screeching for BC to reopen. This is a dangerous and egocentric response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the public health measures meant to keep people safe.

While the anti-lockdown protests may be a result of mere ignorance or misunderstanding, they have tangible, negative effects on the containment of coronavirus. Not only do they fail to consider the capacity of our healthcare system and endanger the health of others by ignoring social distancing recommendations, these protests are also providing a platform that actively encourages others to do the same. 

Studies have shown that coordination amongst individuals is necessary for quarantine restrictions to take effect. While the Vancouver protest in mid-April consisted of only a few people, a video of it received over 21,000 likes on Twitter. This gives a voice to those who are already skeptical of the COVID-19 pandemic and increases confirmation bias — a rejection of any information that disagrees with the preconceived notion that COVID-19 isn’t a threat. The resultant inability to gather information objectively normalizes doubt in health officials and creates further unrest about the perceived “oppressive” measures of the government. 

Concerns about government overreach during these times aren’t necessarily unfounded. However, the belief that legitimate quarantine restrictions for public safety violates citizens’ rights to freedom is a fundamental misunderstanding of how our society functions. 

“Freedom” doesn’t entail simply doing as one pleases. All societies need to have limitations on freedom for them to successfully operate — and there will always be a component of responsibility attached to democratic freedom. That includes the responsibility of caring for others’ health and wellbeing in times of crisis. The anti-lockdown protestors have simply decided that their needs and “rights” are above others’ rights to wellbeing. This fundamentally disregards the fact that the virus has no concept of “freedom” or “rights,” and can infect and possibly kill anyone within transmission distance.

Unfortunately, many will simply believe what they want to believe. However, that shouldn’t stop the rest of us from doing our due diligence in better understanding the current situation surrounding COVID-19. As a society, it is necessary for individuals to act according to pandemic response guidelines because we are all responsible for the health of one another. Protesting the quarantine restrictions is not only counter productive, it’s dangerous. The rhetoric used by protestors not only causes harm — it can cost lives.