A leaked confidential strategy paper reveals that the German government, in cahoots with the media and some scientists, is following a ‘shock’ strategy to make people fear a ‘worst-case scenario’. It says that the general population (for whom the virus is mostly harmless) should be warned of ‘painful suffocation’ and that children in playgrounds could cause the painful death of their parents.
The aim appears to be to frighten the general population into complying with strict government lockdown measures designed to protect those most at risk from the disease.
While the intention behind this state propaganda may be laudable, the ends do not justify the means. As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Certainly it is a kind of hell we are creating for ourselves with our extreme restrictions on liberty and all the consequent impacts on health, liberty and the rule of law as well as on our incomes.
It is dismaying to find any government pursuing a propaganda agenda designed to mislead the populace into compliance.
Is this why the official German advice is now against autopsies of test-positive deceased persons, so that the distinction between deaths from and with Covid-19 can be lost entirely? The stated reason is to protect against infection, but one pathologist at least is suspicious:
‘Up to now, it has been a matter of course for pathologists to carry out autopsies with appropriate safety precautions even in the case of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis, prion diseases etc. It is quite remarkable that in a disease that is killing thousands of patients all over the world and bringing the economy of entire countries to a virtual standstill, only very few autopsy findings are available (six patients from China). From the point of view of both the epidemic police and the scientific community, there should be a particularly high level of public interest in autopsy findings. However, the opposite is the case. Are you afraid of finding out the true causes of death of the positively tested deceased? Could it be that the numbers of corona deaths would then melt away like snow in the spring sun?’
This German revelation raises the question of whether we are being told the full story here by the government and its scientists, to the extent they know what that is. Is it possible that wittingly or unwittingly we are the subject of another Project Fear aided once more by a state broadcaster reluctant either to question the science or the strategy the Government has adopted? The Health Secretary’s threat to ban outdoor exercise seemed designed to ramp up anxiety.
Covid-19 is without doubt proving to be a nasty and deadly illness to which anyone can succumb. It’s one the government’s belated measures have failed to contain, making self-isolation for the symptomatic and social distancing where possible for the most at risk a sensible policy. Sensible restrictions while boosting health service capacity, screening and testing (especially of health care workers to prevent unnecessary sickness absence) and encouraging hand-washing and the use of face masks are common sense nd must be encouraged. But restrictions on liberty should still be proportionate, humane and rational, not socially, psychologically and economically catastrophic.
We are told that the need for extreme restrictions is because coronavirus spreads before symptoms show, making it necessary for everyone and not just the symptomatic to self-isolate. But this is based on controversial advice. The World Health Organisation (who are not ones to play down the risks and whose advice the UK government initially ignored) say that pre-symptom spreading of Covid-19, unlike with flu, ‘does not appear to be a major driver of transmission’. Putting this myth to bed would massively reduce public anxiety and should alter public policy.
Sweden, which is forging a far less authoritarian path through the crisis, has announced that it is to be the first country to distinguish in official reporting between deaths from and with Covid-19. Such an approach would help to ease fears in this country about the virus as reported cases grow, and is a step other countries including the UK should follow.
At last the UK government is aiming to do antibody tests as quickly as possible to discover the true prevalence of the pathogen in the population. This is the kind of factual information we urgently need in this crisis. The faster we can establish the truth about Covid-19 and do away with all the ‘worst-case scenario’ propaganda, the faster we can get proportionate and well-targeted measures in place to protect the vulnerable and get the country back to normal.
Labour’s new leader Sir Keir Starmer has said that people should stop talking about things ‘going back to normal’ because things will never be the same again. No, Sir Keir – in your socialist dreams this may be the crisis that brings on the revolution, but in the real world people just want return to life as normal. Policy must be proportionate to the risk, not to the fear. John Redwood is right. The government must end the lockdown now. It has done its job of letting the NHS expand capacity and prepare. Now it must replace the lockdown with more targeted and less extreme measures and in doing so stop the risk of panic.