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< Back to question How do we think about the UK lockdown debate? Show more Show less

The coronavirus pandemic has led to unprecedented isolation measures throughout the world. One effect has been the creation of ideological blocs across traditional party lines, lobbying for different approaches to containing the virus. UK lockdown came into effect on March 23, shutting down non-essential business and movement outside the home, bar a single daily outing for exercise. Critics variously describe this decision as too late, too little, too much and overblown. So, who are these groups, what do they stand for, and why?

The authoritarian position, or 'Do not lift lockdown!' Show more Show less

This approach is rooted in a belief that during crises, the state should centralise control of social and economic affairs. Proponents range from UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, to an estimated 75% of the British public.
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Lifting the lockdown will give rise to a police state, which must be avoided

This group understands that there are multiple workable options to ending lockdown. And critically, that each will have a unique transformative effect on society. They argue that relaxing lockdown comes at a price: individual freedom. Methods that have worked in other countries rely on the government handling and tracking citizens' data. Many see this, and suggested initiatives such as Matt Hancock's "test, track, trace" app as the population complicit in the building of a surveillance state. Proponents include International Editor of the News Statesman Jeremy Cliffe.
covid health politics
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Proponents


The Argument

The only methods that have worked in relaxing measures give rise to the police state.[1] A police state is where individuals surrender many personal rights and freedoms in order to receive some sort of protection from the police. With contact tracing apps, collecting individual's data, and creating a map of transmission, people are willingly handing over personal information to the government. Imagine visiting your parent's house or the local supermarket or your favorite restaurant and getting an alert or notification on your phone. It reads something along the lines of how you have potentially been infected with COVID and gives you instructions for isolation or medical treatment. Most people in this situation would not be quite aware of how the software works and exactly what personal data they have handed over to the government. Such levels of surveillance are destructive of personal freedom and it sets a precedent for the future.[2] By approving such apps now, in the future, if there is another pandemic or terrorist attack or any event that threatens national security, it is easy for the government to require its citizens to download apps. Such apps are an invasion of privacy and it is much more advisable to voluntarily remain in lockdown, than give rise to such a police state.

Counter arguments

All information traveling through these apps is anonymous and this measure is only a temporary public safety move. It cannot possibly give rise to a police state when no personal identifiers are mentioned. The way these apps collect data is by Bluetooth. When someone's phone is in the range of another device, those devices can receive signals from each other. Due to this type of communication, massive amount of personal information are not shared. Also, any app in collaboration with the government would need to pass privacy laws. Such solutions will help restart the economy without putting lives in danger. The benefits to these technologies far outweigh the overblown negatives. Imagine getting a text that could save someone's life and the lives of their loved ones. Even if it did mean sacrificing a little personal data, isn't life more important than data? Would dying really be worth the few bits of personal information that the government--sworn to protect its citizens, including their personal data--might get? Then there's the fact that enforcing a lockdown could also lead to a police state. In an extreme case, one might not even be allowed to leave their home. Personal freedom is going to be at risk no matter what, because a global pandemic is such a dire situation that it calls for dire actions and solutions. So either way, lockdown or no lockdown, a "police state" would be inevitable if survival is valued above personal freedoms--which is, truthfully, how it should be. A temporary sacrifice of personal freedoms is nothing compared to the permanent sacrifice of a life.

Premises

Rejecting the premises


References

  1. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/contact-tracing-apps-coronavirus
  2. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/nhs-test-and-trace-unlawful-data/source.html

This page was last edited on Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 16:34 UTC

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