- The pandemic, or rather the government response to it, has divided families and sundered friendships in a way reminiscent of Leave vs Remain, although perhaps even more bitterly as it is something that is closer to home. There’s a certain amount of overlap, although far from an exact match.
It has provided a golden opportunity for authoritarians and puritans of all stripes to advance their hobby-horses knowing that they will receive little kickback. The Burden of Proof fallacy has been working overtime.
A: We're going to impose Measure X to reduce the spread of Covid.
B: I'm not sure Measure X is very effective.
A: So you want to KILL PEOPLE, you monster!
- There has been a disturbing amount of suppression of views that dissent from the official narrative, with people losing newspaper columns and TV slots and having their social media accounts suspended or deleted.
- Some people in public life have executed a screeching U-turn and recanted from their previous scepticism. One of the worst examples has been Christopher Snowdon, previously the scourge of the public health establishment on alcohol, tobacco and food policy. In the middle of last year, he was staunchly defending the Swedish approach, but abruptly came round to full-blooded support of the current lockdown. He has compounded this by engaging in mockery of those who disagree with him, completely failing to appreciate the inherent irony.
- People across all manner of sectors have displayed an unedifying dog-in-the-manger attitude, demanding to know why Business X is allowed to open when they’re not. Sadly, the pub trade and those claiming to support them have been particularly guilty of this.
- To assert that there is a choice between protecting the economy and protecting lives is to draw a false dichotomy. A healthy economy is an essential foundation for a healthy society.
- Business failures, economic destruction and a mental health crisis are not caused by Covid, they are caused by lockdowns. Covid is a fact of life, lockdowns are a policy choice. One does not inevitably stem from the other.
- The police really haven’t covered themselves in glory - arresting people for singing and throwing snowballs, making up the law as they went along on mask exemptions, travel to exercise and what shops were allowed to sell, carrying out heavy-handed and unwarranted raids on pubs on the say-so of one malicious curtain-twitcher, and applying blatant double standards to public protests depending on the cause being promoted.
The mask law has encouraged self-righteous, judgmental individuals to feel that they have a right to bully and harass disabled and vulnerable people in public places. It’s all too easy to say “he doesn’t look very disabled”, but of course many of the conditions that entitle people to an exemption aren’t immediately obvious. Anyone tempted to have a go should heed the words of the DHSC:
Face coverings are required in most indoor places. However, there are some people who are exempt.— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) January 8, 2021
Remember, members of the public should never challenge anyone for not wearing a face covering. Not all disabilities are visible.
For more details visit 👇🏾https://t.co/zgQ8cPmfwa pic.twitter.com/zNMeSpo8sM
And hopefully any person who took it upon themselves to challenge this lady would feel rightly proud of themselves.
I don’t doubt that Chris Whitty, Patrick Vallance and Jonathan Van-Tam are able and eminent scientists who are genuinely motivated to do good, but they are only experts in their particular field and seem blinkered to any wider considerations.
I am reminded of the quotations by C.S. Lewis that “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”, and of F.A. Hayek that "There could hardly be a more unbearable - and more irrational - world than one in which the most eminent specialists in each field were allowed to proceed unchecked with the realisation of their ideals."
It would be a hollow victory to succeed in eliminating Covid while being surrounded by the smoking ruins of a destroyed economy. And, frankly, the policies enacted over the past year seem to have done a much better job of achieving economic destruction. Maybe an economist should be included on SAGE to provide a wider perspective.
Neil Ferguson, on the other hand, is a contemptible hypocrite with a long track record of failure in forecasting who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near influencing government policy.
- Some people, with the benefit of hindsight, have argued that things would have been better if we had locked down earlier and harder. However, looking at the situation across the world, there is no correlation between the severity of lockdowns and the success in tackling Covid. Some of the countries with the strictest lockdowns, such as Peru, Argentina and Spain, have had some of the highest death rates. It seems that, in some people’s minds, lockdowns are rather like socialism, that they would work this time if only they were done properly.
Lockdowns have been described as middle class people staying at home on full pay making Zoom calls while working-class people bring them stuff – or lose their jobs. There is a clear correlation between the level of social deprivation in an area and the proportion of inhabitants unable to do their jobs from home.
Media discussions on lockdown seem to be monopolised by people who have suffered no financial penalty. Maybe every panel should have to include at least one person who has been furloughed or lost their job.
- The past few days have seen a sharp decline in daily case figures and some more positive mood music about the lifting of restrictions. However, there is unlikely to any more clarity about the road forward until the Prime Minister makes an announcement a week on Monday. In the meantime there is a welter of speculation in the media, most of which presumably originates from anonymous government sources, but only serves to spread anger and alarm amongst the population.
- And I continue to believe that those claiming that most restrictions will be gone by the middle of the year are being hopelessly optimistic. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not making plans for any holidays further away than Argate.