Will the Biden Administration Let a Delta-Variant Covid-19 Crisis Go to Waste? 

Few countries have imposed more frequent and more stringent lockdown measures to combat Covid-19 than Australia. Their efforts have been so restrictive that the British Medical Journal likened them to a “health dictatorship.”

Other’s are less critical. A Forbes article published in March suggests, even while US cases were in steep decline, “there is still much we can learn from their [Australia’s] response.” Dr. Anthony Fauci specifically praised Australia for its “containment and management of emerging variants.”

These compliments may have been premature.

After experiencing 110 cases of the delta-variant of Covid-19, Sydney is now reinstituting a two-week lockdown (Syndey’s population is about 5.2 million). Fearing additional outbreaks, Darwin, Melbourne, and Perth have also reinstituted lockdown measures.

Despite ordering other recent lockdowns to slow the Covid-19 variant spread, Australia’s political leaders remain steadfast in their beliefs that swift and frequent lockdown remains their best option. As Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said, “The risk is real and we need to act quickly, we need to go hard, we need to go fast.”

Other countries are following their example.

Facing similar Delta-variant outbreaks, New Zealand, Bangladesh, and some regions of Portugal are under various forms of lockdown. Across the globe, the highly infectious delta-variant of Covid-19 has been identified in 85 countries, mainly impacting unvaccinated populations.

The variant currently makes up only about 20 percent of new infections within the US, and nearly half of the population is fully vaccinated. However, fear that there could be more Covid-19 outbreaks on the horizon is spreading.

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb expressed concern that the delta variant could infect school-aged children and might cause “dense outbreaks” in less vaccinated portions of the country.

President Biden has stated he will not consider lockdowns as delta-variant infections spread (although he has not ruled it out). The much more significant concern for future pandemic policy and personal freedom is what power the President will exercise if the delta variant continues to spread.

President Biden once considered travel bans to Florida for failing to abide by the CDC’s guidelines for reopening. Since taking office, he also signed 49 executive orders, demonstrating a willingness to exercise executive authority as he sees fit. Although in the brainstorming phase of developing a vaccination plan to combat the delta variant, some liken the administration’s efforts to “the trappings of a political campaign, complete with data crunching to identify groups that can be won over.”

How, where, and how much the delta-variant of Covid-19 will spread across the country is anyone’s guess. But as fear spreads, our government is well-positioned to increase its authority over a concerned public. Sadly, politicians seeking opportunism whenever it comes is a much easier bet to make.

Raymond J. March is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Assistant Professor of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University.
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