Responding to a petition asking for a referendum, the government laid out their arguments in defence of the Act’s continuation: ‘These approaches to containing the spread of a deadly contagious disease are neither novel nor unique, and in fact represent standard practice (as set out, for example, in the pandemic flu plan that pre-dated this pandemic).’
The only standard practice being observed when it comes to this ‘flu plan’ (the UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011) is the trampling of it underfoot in favour of measures the antitheses of those advised within it.
It is worth remembering that this original strategy was designed around an influenza-style pandemic with a predicted survival rate far lower than that of Covid-19 (generally considered to have a baseline rate of 99 per cent and above):
‘For deaths, the analysis of previous influenza pandemics suggests that we should plan for a situation in which up to 2.5 per cent of those with symptoms would die as a result of influenza . . . aim to cope with a population mortality rate of up to 210,000 – 315,000 additional deaths, possibly over as little as a 15-week period.’
By March 16 2020, the now infamous Professor Neil Ferguson at Imperial College London had identified a Covid-19 infection fatality rate (IFR) for the UK of 0.9 per cent, with a predicted excess death toll of 510,000 within the period April to August 2020, should no non-pharmaceutical interventions be implemented.
Ignoring the fact that Ferguson had a proven reputation for the wildly inaccurate modelling of excess pandemic deaths, why did the Government begin implementing measures deemed ill-advised for a pandemic with an IFR of 2.5 per cent, to combat a pandemic with a much lower IFR of 0.9 per cent? Does this also ‘represent standard practice’? According to the strategy:
‘During a pandemic, the Government will encourage those who are well to carry on with their normal daily lives.’
‘There is very little evidence that restrictions on mass gatherings will have any significant effect . . . [they] are an important indicator of normality and may help maintain public morale.’
‘Although there is a perception that the wearing of facemasks by the public in the community and household setting may be beneficial, there is in fact very little evidence of widespread benefit from their use in this setting.’
‘Even a 99.9 per cent travel restriction might delay a pandemic wave by only two months. The economic, political and social consequences of border closures would also be very substantial, including risks to the secure supply of food.’
‘The general policy would be that schools should not close.’
‘Plans to increase capacity of these services [critical care] are an important aspect of planning.’
There is nothing either ‘novel or unique’ about any of the above guidance, aside from it all having been completely and utterly dismissed. That Government are saying the original flu plan somehow now validates the efficacy and necessity of the approaches contained within the Coronavirus Act is absurd in the extreme.
Despite this glaring discrepancy between guidance advised and measures implemented, in the response to the petition Government say their approach, enabled by the Act, has effectively combated the pandemic in five key areas:
‘Increasing (by a number of 14,000) the available health and social care workforce’: an endeavour currently being undone by the vaccination mandate for care home staff, anticipated to create a loss of up to 40,000 workers in the sector.
‘Easing and reacting to the burden on frontline staff’: with chocolate, moisturiser, temporary free parking, origami sessions and an insult of a pay rise.
‘Supporting people’: by locking them up.
‘Containing and slowing the virus’: by pursuing a covert zero-Covid strategy, despite the flu plan having identified that ‘it will not be possible to stop the spread of, or to eradicate, the pandemic influenza virus, either in the country of origin or in the UK, as it will spread too rapidly and too widely’ (Stop The Spread, anyone?) and finally:
‘Managing the deceased with respect and dignity.’ Surely the dead are no longer part of the pandemic, hence how you manage ethically their corpses is not part of the combative strategy.
As for paying healthy people to sit at home via the furlough and Self-Employed Income Support Schemes, in light of the original flu plan’s advice that they should not have been off work in the first place, this particular measure is no rescue package: it is more akin to pushing someone into a canal so that you can throw them a lifebelt and gloat about your bravery.
The only thing that is neither novel nor unique about Government’s pandemic approach is the virus upon which it is based. The Coronavirus Act on the other hand, and Government’s spurious assertion that their original flu plan somehow justifies its ongoing implementation, or at the very least validates its existence, is indeed novel and unique: a clever new way to rob the UK’s citizens of their liberty.