The COVID-19 pandemic is all everyone talks about recently. Due to the highly contagious nature of the disease, no less than 100 countries have been on lockdown and many more have imposed travel restrictions. Our global village has been experiencing a closure of borders like never before.

We’ve had to forfeit many freedoms: freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom to engage in economic activities, freedom of association and many more. It’s like a prelude to the dystopia in a sci-fi movie. However, being forced to temporarily forfeit these freedoms reminds us of how invaluable freedom really is, as we count our losses. This should ultimately inspire us to protect these freedoms even more,post  COVID19.

More than before, we see the importance of free trade. Though funds are now being disbursed by the International Monetary Fund and other entities, they’re short lived and don’t come without economic consequences. 

As an alternative to trade, governments are distributing billions to citizens, to mitigate the effects of the lockdown. Trump signed an $8.3 billion economic stimulus package for the United States of America. Nigerian government has approved a grant of about $27 million and is currently seeking a loan of $6.9 billion to fund its efforts to mitigate the effects of the lockdown while curbing the spread of the virus in the country. As much as big spending can be worrisome, a bigger problem is the lack of economic activity due to the absence of free trade and free movement during this lockdown. 

The lack of economic activity means that states are spending so much with little or no revenue, which in turn means that they’re accruing great losses. The world economy is currently facing a recession which doesn’t have a good prognosis if the situation doesn’t improve.  The UN predicts a loss of about $2 trillion this year as a result of the pandemic. A report from the African Union predicts a revenue loss of $270 billion in Africa as a result of the pandemic with an estimated cost of $130 billion for the fight against the virus.

The lack of economic activity also has a more immediate effect on the citizens particularly low income and daily earners. With little to survive on and no source of income, they are the worst hit by the restrictions on economic activities.

Now that governments have put restrictions on movement in various parts of the world, freedom of movement is in a precarious situation. Until it began to get relaxed recently, people in Italy were not allowed to so much as leave their houses without a form explaining why they have to do so. It’s no surprise that adherence to the restrictions comes as a challenge to many. In this period, one can’t help but realise how invaluable freedom of movement is.

It may never have occurred to us that we enjoyed a particular freedom when we could freely attend religious, social, educational and corporate gatherings. In the light of recent events, the goings on in your house are apparently the business of the government. People who used to be a part of daily life were suddenly estranged and could only be reached via online channels. Many activities which used to be a part of daily routine and contributed to the soundness of body and mind have suddenly become illegal.

These are difficult times indeed. However, we shouldn’t  despair but keep fighting the virus with all we can. At the end of this, there are various lessons to be learnt. A very important one would be how important freedom is to the general well-being of the individual, society and economy. We should remember the dire economic consequences of the lack of freedom and ensure that unless in unprecedented and dire circumstances, they never repeat themselves.

Government control should not be left as powerful as it currently is and a free society must always be the default condition of humanity. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us once more of the importance of liberty. .

Ogechukwu Egwuatu

Bio Ogechukwu Egwuatu is a final year student of French and German at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, a local coordinator at African Students For Liberty and an Op-Ed Writer at The Chale Institute. She is available on Twitter @peacedennis2 and on Medium at Ogechukwu Egwuatu.

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