Sunday, July 18, 2021

Life Lately: Freedom Day and my roadmap for living with COVID-19

Enjoying the sun and glad to be free of my second self-isolation in seven months

Tomorrow is Freedom Day in England. Most measures for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 will be dropped. Mask-wearing in public and social distancing will no longer be mandated. I’m not sure how I feel. Having had COVID twice, both times with symptoms, these changes spark a little anxiety. But I also believe society needs to move on.

I don’t think COVID-19 is going anywhere. Given the respiratory nature of the virus and how far it has spread, I don’t think we’ll be able to eradicate this one like we did smallpox. I believe COVID-19 will become endemic, circulating in pockets and causing localized outbreaks. I’m not alone in thinking this. Smarter people who are more familiar with immunology have reached similar conclusions. (See here, here, and here). What this means is we need to learn to live with this virus, as we have with other viruses.

Lockdowns are a nuclear option. While they limit COVID deaths, they do so by ripping out the cancer with a chunk of healthy tissue. We need them sometimes, like when we first encountered this virus early last year and hospitals were at risk of being overwhelmed. But when the objective shifts to optimizing for the long-term health of the species, you start to question why we’re ripping out all that healthy tissue. We need to move forward cautiously, finding the balance between limiting death and protecting life.

This is easier said than done. Especially when the media goes into an orgasmic frenzy when case numbers rise – as they will. So where does this leave governments? How will they balance the demands of national security, a thriving economy, and public health in the age of COVID-19?
Another learning from Pale Rider is that the demands of national security, a thriving economy, and public health rarely align. Government officials defending the first two in a pandemic undermine the third simply by doing their job. How do you keep some economic activity going while keeping as many people as possible safe? - Me, Thoughts From Lockdown: On Pandemics, Slighted Gods, and Public Policy (April 2020)
I think our objective needs to shift from limiting COVID cases to limiting COVID deaths. Water is wet, stones are hard, and COVID cases will rise. What we’re now seeing is that we can delink deaths from cases thanks to vaccines.

"Vaccines are highly effective in reducing the risk of infection as well as transmission. Even if you are infected, vaccines will help prevent severe Covid-19 symptoms,"Singapore’s COVID-19 task force
We need to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. We ought to decentralize vaccine production (not Quality Control) so that factories in every country can produce vaccines for local use and potentially export. And we need to invest in messaging that connects with moderate anti-vaxxers, both for their protection and to help us get to herd immunity faster. We may also need booster shots, but that will become clearer over the next few months.

We all need to play our part, and governments and employers should make this easier. It should be quick and easy to get free COVID-19 tests at home. I like the UK’s lateral flow home tests which can be done at home and give results in 30 minutes and I’ve read COVID-19-breathalyzers (results in 2-3 minutes) are under development. Symptomatic people should be able to get paid time off work without fuss. Asymptomatic people should act to limit the spread, from voluntary self-isolation to wearing masks and social-distancing if they have to be out and about.

Governments need to invest in surge management by acquiring the ability to rapidly ramp up hospital beds if cases requiring hospitalization spike suddenly. The best treatment protocols need to be shared across the world and re-applied speedily. And if all fails, we’ll have our trusty old friend, a circuit breaker lockdown to give the system a breather.

I’m certain this approach is far from perfect. I’m just a guy with a blog, not a public health specialist or government official. I’ve not even mentioned long COVID to keep this from getting too long. But there are things I’ll be doing that I’m confident are sensible: I’ll get my second jab as soon as I can, I’ll continue to wear a mask on public transport, and I’ll avoid super-spreader events.


What I’m currently reading: Children of Virtue and Vengeance. I needed something fun and playful after last week’s serious read, and this is turning out to be such a good fit. I read Children of Blood and Bone in 2018 and loved it. Unfortunately I’ve forgotten much of the story so I’m having to double-check who is who as I go on.

What I’m currently listening to: In You, But Better; behavioral scientist Katy Milkman explains how we can use our minds to make better choices for ourselves and increase the chances that we stick to the healthy resolutions we make.

I’ve also been listening to Cameroon Rain City a LOT on Headspace, particularly between 04:00am and 07:00am. I use it to drown out the horrendous noise of the seagulls with pleasant 3D-recorded rainfall so I can get more sleep in.


Have a fab week!



  1. Hi Koye,

    I found your blog via twitter and I am quite impressed that you have been blogging since 2009! Wow! I read some of your decade-old posts as well. I noticed that in your weekly posts, you have a new book per week that you are reading. I am just a bit curious as to how you actually read a book a week. I am guessing that you are a busy executive and such a feat must require a great level of dedication. Do you mind obliging me?

    PS: Your weekly blog posts was the final push for me to start blogging again, and try out weekly content myself on . I am starting tonight and I would be quite delighted if I can maintain it till year end at the very least.

    Thank you for your posts!

    1. Thank you Sisikunmi. I find some of my old posts a bit cringey (haha) and I'm always debating whether to take them down or leave them up. The latter view tends to win as they chronicle part of my journey.

      While I've indeed read a book a week for many weeks now, that isn't always the case. There have been months when I've only managed one or two. I don't think there's anything special I do and there's a strong personality-element to it. I'm very curious and always asking questions. So I tend to read a lot because books offer up answers/theories/opinions. Reading is like my go-to default when I'm not doing anything else - and I tend to always have a book/Kindle in hand. I hope this clarifies.

      I just popped over to your Blog and your first weekly post was really nice. Well done!

  2. This is a well-written piece and it resonates with how I feel about the pandemic.
    Too much of life is being given up to fight this one threat, as potent as this single threat may seem. We need to remember that life was not perfect before COVID-19, and things like gyms, concerts, and in-person schooling played important roles in the physical, psychological, and mental short-, mid-, and long-term wellbeing of people. Never-mind the fact that the ability to even consider lockdowns comes from a position of privilege that the majority of the world does not have. Billions of people who live in regions with inadequate governance and social services will seriously struggle to have food on the table if they are prevented from going out to work for two weeks. Furthermore, recent events like the Olympic Games and the European Men's Football Championship demonstrated even the rich world's reluctance to wean itself from some of its more superfluous traditions.
    Even governments like Australia's that tried to maintain "COVID Zero" and had sweeping lockdowns once an infection was discovered in the wild are showing signs of relaxing their expectations on how the pandemic will pan out [].
    One issue that you mentioned that I think needs drastic action is the media's coverage of the pandemic. Huge segments are devoted to sensationalising the number of new cases and the anecdotal experiences that come with that. However, the issues bearing more import such as vaccine politics, patents, rights to production and distribution, pricing, and non-disclosure agreements surrounding all of the aforementioned points do not get nearly enough coverage.