When governments respond to the outbreak of a global disease pandemic with radical policy (lockdowns, travel bans, alcohol bans etc etc)- they are effectively making a prediction that their extreme intervention will reduce the potential harm that the disease promises to create in the future.
Policymakers are therefore making big bets (on your behalf) based on probability.
Even if they are not educated as such; government officials are now our publicly elected futurists. Making very important judgments about our futures based on the quality of evidence that they have on hand (or choose to believe in).
So if they are playing the futurist game; how well have policymakers performed as futurists in the last 2 years?
Have global pandemic responses caused more harm than good, or have policymakers saved us from the worst tyranny of covid-19?
When the Omnicron variant was first detected in Southern Africa and a public announcement was make, many Western countries immediately closed their borders to travellers from the region.
They determined that the probability of lessening the affect of the Omnicron variant in their own countries was higher after rejecting travellers from a certain region, than without this intervention.
Simple - see threat, ban people. Solved.
They made a big bet quickly. It was also the wrong bet.
On Dec 24, 2020, the UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an immediate travel ban on all flights to South Africa after the detection of SARS-CoV-2 beta variant by South African scientists.1
The resulting travel restriction was lifted 291 days later.
On Nov 25, 2021, South African scientists reported a new SARS-CoV-2 variant, B.1.1.529, that was subsequently designated omicron.
Two days after the identification of omicron, the UK Government promptly reapplied a travel ban on travel from South Africa and some other African countries.5 Several other countries, such as Israel and the USA, swiftly followed suit with travel bans from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, citing this action as a precautionary measure.6 This unwarranted action has generated intense anger and frustration. Travel restrictions are unlikely to be able to stop the spread of coronaviruses unless countries are able to completely seal their borders to travellers from all nations. - via
This bet instantly put the world more at risk in the future
The obvious unintended consequence of these governments banning travellers from so-called 'virus creating countries' is that in the future, countries that do detect new variants of the covid-19 virus in their populations will be extremely hesitant to disclose this information with the rest of the world in fear of these kind of repercussions.
So here is just one example of how Boris Johnson's bet has most certainly created far more harm than good.
Johnson's complete failure to consider the unintended consequences of his actions has made the global community more vulnerable to disease in the future.
The latest travel ban has devastated family holiday plans and an industry. South Africa's tourist industry contributes about ZAR82 billion (£3·77 billion) annually to the fiscus, by far the largest proportion coming from UK tourists.19 Tourism and allied industries account for an estimated 1·5 million jobs and livelihoods in South Africa. 1 day after the UK's travel red-listing of South Africa occurred, the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa and the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association did a survey of association members serving international markets. An average of 2506 cancellations had occurred among 603 respondents from tourist bookings they held over the next 4 months, representing 1·5 million cancellations in the first 48 h after the travel ban began, and 390 respondents reported ZAR940 million of lost revenue, an average of ZAR2·4 million each (Rosa N, Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, personal communication).
Politicians don't make good futurists because their time horizons (an election cycle) are too short. The world however carries the unintended consequences of their decisions well into the future.