The latest proposal for combatting coronavirus is a “circuit break.” The idea is that by taking short breaks from normal life by imposing mini lockdowns, we can help flatten the next wave of COVID-19. Is this likely to be effective. Well, if the question is “will such measures effectively combat the pandemic” then I don’t think you need to be a epidemiologist to see the flaw in the plan. It’s the same problem that we saw when we came out of the first lockdown. As I’ve explained several times, if we suppress the virus but don’t actually finish it off, then it is likely to bounce back again as soon as the suppressive measures are removed. So, we may see some positive results from a mini lockdown at half term but the virus will start spreading again in November.
It is important therefore to remind ourselves about what the aim of any of the measures has been so far. It was not to finish the virus off but to slow it down to give us a fighting chance of responding to it by building hospital capacity, finding a vaccine and developing a level of herd immunity. A circuit break won’t stop the advance of a pandemic level virus for which there is no cure or vaccine. However, I presume that those advising the government are hoping is that it will slow down the virus a little just as we head into the critical part of winter.
The second aim is of course to modify behaviour. We are not a country known for uniform compliance or draconian authoritarianism, so how do we effect necessary social change. Well it looks to me like one aim of the measures we have seen along the way has been to encourage people to behave differently by engaging in less social activity.
Now, if I can, I would like to turn away from the specifics of a pandemic and get us thinking about implications for our spiritual health again. I think that what a lot of us engage in when it comes to our battle with sinful desires is a similar approach. We think we can suppress temptation by holding it down long enough, we hope that a form of circuit break will halt its march. The types of circuit breaks we engage in tend to be “fasts” from the things that tempt us whether alcohol, gluttony or social media. Yet what we find is that taking a week or month off of these things feels great at the time but we cannot suppress the desire for ever.
It’s not breaks from sinful desires we need. We cannot just suppress them. The Bible talks about the need for them to be put to death through the power of the Holy Spirit.