Forum: Social contract is fine, but there's a cost to everything

It appears that many people in the United Kingdom feel that the majority are having to make a great sacrifice for the few vulnerable people - the elderly and chronically ill - who are most susceptible to Covid-19.

It is easy to be quite blase and say: "Why should I bother?"

Excuses for non-compliance include "I'm young and will not die from it", or "I'm already old and I want to go out with all guns blazing", or even "Ah! I had the virus very early on. Let me do whatever I want".

These arguments have caused me to revisit the concept of "social contract".

Unlike Singaporeans, people in the UK do not worry about the cost of healthcare. Under the National Health Service, there is no fear of having to pay for screening, swabbing, and even hospitalisation.

However, nothing comes without a cost.

The cost of Covid lockdowns is that a lot of people needing critical care for cancer and other medical conditions are deprioritised.

When thus juxtaposed, it would seem rational that people should take precautions and maintain social distancing and other means to reduce the spread of Covid-19, including self-isolating when contacted to do so.

Instead there are reports of people throwing caution to the wind and gathering in large numbers to enjoy a drink or three, throwing large parties and attacking the police who try to enforce the rules against such potential "super spreader" events.

The result? A phased regional lockdown and now a nationwide lockdown.

Sweden has been held up as an example where the policymakers refused a national lockdown. It all came down to being "sensible" and mindful of others.

Is that a positive example of how a social contract should work?

If so, what other characteristics about a social contract must we, should we, investigate?

Lee Siew Peng (Dr)

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