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Debunked: The MPs’ Covid ‘report’

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IF THE British mainstream media of the mid-2000s were as unquestioning as the current set, they would have concluded that the Iraq War was a disaster because the UK failed to invade a week earlier. 

Yes, that dreaded report on the British coronavirus response is finally here. Inaccurately called ‘Lessons Learnt,’ the 150-page document predictably concludes that the official Covid-19 death toll would have been lower if only the Johnson government had locked down a week earlier. Sigh.

Even more predictably, the MSM swallowed every word of it, then got to work grilling ministers for all the wrong reasons. Their idea of balance is allowing one establishment mouthpiece to deride the execution of a policy, while another establishment mouthpiece defends its execution. No one challenges the policy itself.

No fewer than 15 times, Kay Burley of Sky News asked Cabinet Office Minister Stephen Barclay, absurdly, if he would apologise for Covid-19 deaths.

A good response would have been to point out that Theresa May was not held personally responsible for the deaths caused by the ‘Aussie flu’ outbreak of 2017/2018, which crippled large parts of the NHS, left patients dying in corridors and claimed the lives of a number of previously healthy children

He might have gone further and asked Kay Burley if she ever attempted to press Tony Blair into apologising for failing to take action during the influenza outbreaks of 1998/1999 and 1999/2000, which caused some of the highest weekly deaths in England and Wales since records began in 1993.

Barclay might have added that Harold Wilson was not blamed for the 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic, and nor was Harold Macmillan was for the 1957 Asian flu pandemic.

Of course, he did not say any of this, and not just due to lack of wit. He belongs to a government that remains committed to blackmailing its citizens into feeling personally responsible for an illness. To tell the truth that we are no more responsible for Covid-19 than we were for past outbreaks and pandemics would be to admit that the torturous coercion, misery and suffering he helped to impose on us for 18 months was morally wrong.

The BBC covered the report as follows:

The government approach – backed by its scientists – was to try to manage the situation and in effect achieve herd immunity by infection, it said.

This led to a delay in introducing the first lockdown, costing thousands of lives, the MPs found.

Note the last three words, ‘the MPs found’.

The MPs (two committees stuffed with lockdown cheerleaders such as Jeremy Hunt) did not ‘find’ anything, they simply parroted the groupthink of the pro-lockdown establishment, typed it up and then called it a ‘report’. 

‘Lesson’ 77 of this ‘report’ states:

‘It is now clear that this was the wrong policy, and that it led to a higher initial death toll than would have resulted from a more emphatic early policy. In a pandemic spreading rapidly and exponentially, every week counted.’

In this passage alone we are presented with a warped take on morality, one outright falsehood and a wild, unsubstantiated claim.

The view that it was ‘wrong’ not to lock down 68million citizens more promptly is a callous and offensive dismissal of the incalculable death, suffering, hardship and societal damage caused by lockdowns. Whoever made that statement should apologise for any hurt they may have caused.

Scientifically, the claim that there was ‘a higher death toll than would have resulted from a more emphatic early (lockdown) policy’ is contradicted by real-world evidence, not to mention numerous major studies on the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions.

This assertion simply cannot be true. Belgium, the Czech Republic and Peru locked down early, yet have higher Covid death rates than the UK.

Sweden and Japan did not lock down at all, yet both have a lower death rate than the UK. During the first wave, the virus peaked and flattened at pretty much the same rate in Sweden as it did in the UK and Belgium. There was no exponential rise, the bodies did not pile high in Stockholm. 

If lockdowns were a barrier against mass death, Sweden would have suffered the highest Covid death rate in Europe. In reality it ranks 27th, in the bottom half, lower than countries that placed their populations under house arrest including Baltic neighbours Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

The Czech Republic was initially celebrated by the Zero Covid lobby as a pandemic success story, up there with New Zealand and Australia. But Covid came back for them later, and the Czechs ended up with one of the highest death rates in Europe.

Peru not only imposed one of the earliest lockdowns globally, but also one of the longest. Peru maintains the highest Covid death rate in the world, far exceeding that of Brazil, India, Russia and the United States.

Japan suffered no excess deaths in 2020. It is possible that their avoidance of mandatory lockdowns has been given less attention due to the common Japanese practice of mask-wearing, which lockdown opponents and supporters alike associate with draconian mask mandates in Europe, Australia and America. But Japan was initially accused of reckless inaction.

It needs mentioning that Japan, Sweden, the UK, Belgium, Czechia and Peru are ranked in the same order in terms of excess deaths as they are for official Covid deaths, since not all countries are reliable. Belarus, which imposed no mitigations at all during the pandemic, did suffer quite high excess mortality, but crucially, their mortality was still lower than Lithuania and Russia, which have imposed restrictions including lockdowns at various times during the last year and a half.

One lesson that clearly wasn’t learned was that any estimate made by Professor Neil Ferguson should be taken with a pinch of salt.

He is cited as saying that if a national lockdown had been instituted even a week earlier, ‘we would have reduced the final death toll by at least a half’. 

Sweden, Japan, Czechia, Belgium and Peru prove this to be false. And it’s strange that MPs should take his word as gospel when his Imperial College modelling predictions have been proved wrong. 

Imperial’s ‘Report 12, impact of COVID-19 and strategies for mitigation and suppression’, published on March 26 2020 said that Sweden would suffer between 66,000 and 90,000 Covid deaths in an unmitigated scenario, and 16,000 to 42,000 deaths with enhanced social distancing measures in place. 

Nineteen months on, Sweden’s Covid-19 death toll currently stands at 14,882, even less than Imperial’s best-case scenario, and roughly 75,000 deaths short of their worst-case scenario. It’s also worth remembering that while millions of us were separated from our partners and spouses, even if they were dying, Neil Ferguson flagrantly violated his own lockdown to have an affair with another man’s wife. If he sincerely thought that lockdowns were preventing a catastrophe of such magnitude, he wouldn’t have done that. So why do MPs listen to him, and why should we listen to them?

Furthermore, there is evidence, first noted by Professor Carl Heneghan at the Oxford University Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (mentioned in the report but not cited), that Covid-19 infections in the UK had already peaked before the first lockdown was announced on March 23 2020. The lockdown was pointless.

You should write to the MPs who cooked up this report: if everyone writes to them, they can’t ignore it. Ask them, politely, how Sweden did better than us with no lockdown at all, and how Belgium, Czechia and Peru did worse than us with early lockdowns. Ask them when the victims of lockdown will get an apology.

They need to be told, again and again, that lockdowns, whatever the timing, do not work, and that there would not be a catastrophe in the absence of them. Labour cannot be allowed to get away with demanding ‘circuit breakers’, and the Tories cannot be allowed to get away with selling vaccine passports as ‘the only way to avoid another lockdown’.

The MPs involved are:

Health and Social Care Committee

Current membership
Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP (Conservative, South West Surrey) (Chair)
Paul Bristow MP (Conservative, Peterborough)
Rosie Cooper MP (Labour, West Lancashire)
Dr James Davies MP (Conservative, Vale of Clwyd)
Dr Luke Evans MP (Conservative, Bosworth)
Barbara Keeley MP (Labour, Worsley and Eccles South)
Taiwo Owatemi MP (Labour, Coventry North West)
Sarah Owen MP (Labour, Luton North)
Anum Qaisar-Javed MP (Scottish National Party, Airdrie and Shotts)
Dean Russell MP (Conservative, Watford)
Laura Trott MP (Conservative, Sevenoaks)

Science and Technology Committee

Current membership
Rt Hon Greg Clark MP (Conservative, Tunbridge Wells) (Chair)
Aaron Bell MP (Conservative, Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Dawn Butler MP (Labour, Brent Central)
Chris Clarkson MP (Conservative, Heywood and Middleton)
Katherine Fletcher MP (Conservative, South Ribble)
Andrew Griffith MP (Conservative, Arundel and South Downs)
Mark Logan MP (Conservative, Bolton North East)
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP (Labour, Salford and Eccles)
Carol Monaghan MP (Scottish National Party, Glasgow North West)
Graham Stringer MP (Labour, Blackley and Broughton)
Zarah Sultana MP (Labour, Coventry South)

This first appeared in the Harry Dougherty Blog on October 13, 2021, and is republished by kind permission.

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Harry Dougherty
Harry Dougherty is a journalist and writer.

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