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Jan 10, 2022

Living with the virus, living with mortality

It seems highly unlikely that COVID will be eradicated like smallpox or polio. The current debate about continuing the restrictions or trying to live with the virus, is only a debate about when, not about whether. Some people believe it is now, while others think it is later. I don’t hear anyone arguing that the virus will simply go away on its own.

The problem is that it does not fit into our proud narrative of continuous progress. While we all understand temporary setbacks, the humanity does not know how to deal with permanent losses. For example, life expectancy in developed world has dropped. This feels a little like defeat, or perhaps a lesson on humility, or a reminder of our mortality. Not only individual people die, but there is no guarantee for our species to survive indefinitely. Many other species came to this world, and are now gone – what makes us think we are somehow an exception? For now, we are still kicking and doing well – a little less smug, a bit humbler, and not as many of us than before. At least 5,5 million people died because of the virus, 310 million are sick right now.

Learning to live with the virus is not just a pragmatic arrangement – which restrictions, for how long, etc. It is, to some degree, an adjustment of our attitude, a revision of the belief in steady progress, and some tempering of arrogance. Let’s learn to live with the virus.

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