Everything in science is preliminary, but one thing is certain about Covid-19. Lockdowns don’t stop the disease.
They only delay infections until after they have cleared up. They can only work if they are kept in place indefinitely. We don’t need epidemiologists or mathematical modellers to tell us this.
All we have to do is look out the window and see what’s going on in the world. In every country where a lockdown has been imposed, infections rage.
We are now about to repeat a policy that has arguably failed.
Our government plans to destroy businesses and jobs, increase poverty, aggravate mental illness and cause untold suffering to many millions of active and healthy people who are unlikely to develop severe symptoms, even when infected.
There will be layers of humbug to divert attention from what they are doing. Ministers will recoil and complain about the pain this is causing them, assuring us that it will all be worth it in the end.
The leader of the opposition will support some of the most ill-reasoned decisions of the modern age. But failed policies are never worth it.
If politicians want to be taken seriously, they have to answer serious questions that they have avoided so far.
Everything in science is preliminary, but one thing is certain about Covid-19. Lockdowns don’t stop the disease. Two women wear face masks outside a Lancashire cafe before the Tier 3 lockdown took effect
We are now about to repeat a policy that has arguably failed. London (above) is pictured above in Tier 2 lockdown
About 136 deaths were recorded yesterday, but scientists have warned it could rise to 690 by the end of the month
Infections have risen again in the UK and are higher than in April – although significantly more tests are now running than earlier this year
First, what are they trying to achieve? Health Minister Matt Hancock told the House of Commons last week that the goal was to ‘suppress’ the virus. But what does that mean?
The government has accepted since May that Covid-19 will be with us in the long term. Her scientific advisers have consistently said that lockdowns only bring time.
If the government is trying to buy time, which seems to be the most its measures could ever achieve, what’s the point? The virus will still be waiting for us when the time is up.
Buy time until what? Until the NHS has caught up? It was caught up in April, the only thing for which Mr. Hancock deserves dashing praise.
Until the government has acquired enough basic competence to run a good test and trace program? Will it ever?
Until there is a vaccine? We don’t know when that will be or how effective it will be.
Some vaccines provide lifelong protection against smallpox or measles. The consensus seems to be that an anti-Covid vaccine is unlikely to do that.
Like the flu vaccine, it seems more likely to confer only partial and temporary immunity, and not everyone.
The most bizarre feature of the current situation is the refusal of ministers to learn from experience. If a total lockdown of several months didn’t work, here or anywhere, why does the government think lesser measures like the sixth rule, travel bans, curfews, or two-week ‘circuit breakers’ will do better? ?
The reality is that we have no idea what our government thinks it is doing. In the absence of answers to these fairly obvious questions, we have to assume that the ministers have no idea either. What their exit plan is we’re not told, presumably because they don’t have one, except ‘Something is coming up’.
There is a variety of different views in the world of epidemiologists and immunologists – about 35,000 public health scientists and physicians signed the Great Barrington Declaration, drafted two weeks ago by three leading specialists.
They point out that arbitrary attempts to stop infections keep healthy people from acquiring natural immunity and that buying time only lengthens the crisis. Both things are likely to increase the number of deaths.
The signatories argue that we must protect the vulnerable who are at risk of serious illness or death and the others who are not at risk of the disease should be exposed and gain some immunity.
Nobody, especially the authors of the statement, claims that this is a perfect solution. It will not eliminate all deaths. Natural immunity may not last (although it will last at least as long as a vaccine).
There will be some whose vulnerabilities are not identified. There will be vulnerable people who would rather take the risk and enjoy life. But it’s a better bet than the current ill-conceived measures. The Great Barrington Declaration’s approach may or may not be correct, but at least it is a coherent case. It accumulates.
The government case does not accumulate. It is full of holes left by the silence of ministers. So far, the lockdown enthusiasts’ only response has been an attempt to infect the Great Barrington authors with allegations that they are the tools of right-wing doctrines or anti-Semites. If there was a better answer than abuse, no doubt we would have heard it.
In any case, the program of the Great Barrington scientists is in keeping with experience. The success of the Swedish model has been embarrassed by British ministers who have no answer.
Stockholm, where the epidemic hit hardest in the spring, has a population density, an age balance and a public health system comparable to that of major British cities. But we have preferred to follow the example of countries that have failed to contain the virus rather than the one country that seems to have succeeded.
A ghastly chasm opens between those who want to take reasonable steps to protect themselves and live as normally as possible without going over the top, and zealots who believe that the state should basically take over our lives. our lounges and keeps us infantilized at home. What happened to rational thinking in Britain?
Rational thinking has been banished by fear. Fear stimulates thoughtless reactions. It leads to intolerant conformism and bad-tempered abuse from anyone who goes too far.
If politicians want to be taken seriously, they have to answer serious questions that they have avoided so far. First, what are they trying to achieve? Health Minister Matt Hancock told the House of Commons last week that the goal was to ‘suppress’ the virus. But what does that mean?
It raises panicky demands for government action, without thinking about the limits of what government action can achieve. This is an atmosphere in which the advocates of coercion and authoritarian styles of government have always thrived.
But the main culprits are not the public, but the ministers, who have fallen into the trap of creating them themselves. They have fueled people’s fears to justify their decisions and bring about compliance. They promised the impossible and when the inevitable failure came, they blamed the public for not keeping their commandments. The real reason the ministers have not dared to answer the questions of their policies is that their goal is not to suppress the virus, which they should know is impossible. It’s to protect oneself from responsibility.
They think they will be criticized for the Covid-19 deaths, but get away with the indirect consequences of their brutal countermeasures: the cancer deaths, the loneliness and mental breakdowns, the poverty and job destruction, the public and private bankruptcy. The truth is the first victim of this trial, but it is not very high on this government’s agenda.
The government has entered a pattern of coercion and is afraid to change course for fear of discrediting its own past decisions.
But even fear has its limits. As public confidence fades, it is forced to maintain the atmosphere of panic through increasingly hyped alarms, misleading statistics, draconian fines, bullying threats, calls for snipers and informers and arrogant disregard for the basic values people live by.
I have not yet met anyone in London who intends to comply with the ban on welcoming friends and family into their homes. So here’s a final question for the government to answer: why on earth should they answer that?