How long will it take our political masters, do you think, to admit the lockdown was a colossal over-reaction? What level of evidence will such an admission require? Will they ever accept it or will they always find a weasel way of claiming it was somehow worth it, no matter the scale of economic devastation?
When are they going to come clean that the Wuhan coronavirus is about as deadly as flu, averaging between 0.1 and 0.8 per cent death rate depending on the region, and largely harmless to the general population under 65 with no pre-existing conditions, who are more likely to die in a road accident? Or that the 40,000 or so it is now estimated it will kill in the UK is only half the 80,000 attributed to the 1968-69 Hong Kong flu?
How long until they accept that the models their advisers rely on are too simplistic to model a real outbreak because they fail properly to incorporate varying degrees of susceptibility, so that collective immunity typically emerges at much closer to 15 per cent than 60 per cent? When will they start to be open and publish the ‘science’ that they claim to be following at each step so it can be subjected to proper scrutiny?
What will it take for them to swallow the pill that infections peaked and began to decline in many places including the UK before lockdown began, or that even voluntary social distancing shows no consistent relationship to the slowdown of infections in cities around the world? Worse, studies in New York, Spain and China all agree that people confined to their homes may be as at much risk as those out and about. The BBC reports that the ‘R number’ reproduction rate has risen above one in the UK again – but reading the fine print this happened three weeks ago, in the middle of lockdown, and is probably linked to ongoing spreading in hospitals and care homes. There is no evidence that lockdown protects people from this virus.
Will it ever sink in that shutting down the world economy is likely always to do more harm than good, not least in poorer countries? The UN is sounding the alarm about a coming famine ‘of biblical proportions‘ and a recent Lancet pre-print warns that ‘if routine health care is disrupted – as a result of unavoidable shocks, health system collapse, or intentional choices made in responding to the pandemic – the increase in child and maternal deaths will be devastating’, of the order of ‘1,157,000 additional child deaths and 56,700 additional maternal deaths’.
For how long will they impose impractical, anti-social and economically prohibitive rules designed to keep us all apart out of fear of a second wave? At what point will they look around the world and concede that it is never going to come and that all the cost and sacrifice has been for nothing? Is it too much to ask that they learn the lessons sooner rather than later of countries like Sweden and Belarus, where much lighter responses have produced no worse outcomes?
Our political leaders have a long way to climb down from the absurd and extreme positions they have adopted during this panic. Perhaps the growing protests around the world will help to focus their minds, as thousands turn out in Germany, where opposition to lockdown is becoming more mainstream and vocal, and the resistance movement gathers pace here.
But climb down they must, as there is now a population in the UK at once terrified of going outdoors and addicted to a new home-based life without commuting and workplaces. Many need to be coaxed back into normality by clear-headed and strong leadership, not wrapped up in state-sponsored cotton wool. But are our current leaders up to the job? Not on the evidence so far.
In yesterday’s Sunday Times, former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption is scathing in his criticism of the government. He says that it is our business, not the state’s, to decide what risks we will take with our own health.
He concludes: ‘The lockdown is now all about protecting politicians’ backs. They are not wicked men, just timid ones, terrified of being blamed for deaths on their watch. But it is a wicked thing that they are doing.’ He is right.