SHOULD there be a second wave of Covid-19, next time the government’s response will be very different. Because, as the prime minister conceded: ‘The economic and human consequences of a total lockdown are disastrous.’
Sadly, the PM who recently acknowledged this painful truth, and ruled out a repeat, was France’s Jean Castex, not our Boris Johnson.
Interviewed last week by the Telegraph and accorded the opportunity to provide a similar undertaking, even now Boris is unwilling to preclude a further national lockdown, saying: ‘I can’t abandon that tool any more than I would abandon a nuclear deterrent.’
Having chosen the metaphor, Boris should be reminded that our warheads are not intended for domestic use and should not be aimed at his own people. ‘I certainly don’t want to use it, nor do I think we will be in that position again,’ was the extent of his assurance.
By failing unequivocally to rule out a second nationwide lockdown, Johnson is pointing his weaponry at us sceptics who wish he would immediately lift all Covid constraints.
During recent weeks, UK mortality has actually fallen below the seasonal average; Covid-related deaths, though individual tragedies, currently are statistically insignificant. Despite which, the best Boris offers is his recent ‘strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest – possibly in time for Christmas’.
Cripes. Although he did not specify Christmas of which year, it was assumed BoJo meant December 2020. At the very least this means more months of miserable restrictions, by which time unemployment will be soaring and the fatal failure by the hallowed NHS (peace be upon it) to deal with more chronic conditions will have become ever more apparent.
Nor did Boris spell out what ‘a more significant return to normality’ might entail. No more compulsory mask-wearing? Fat chance. The Government has already muzzled people without setting out the requisite conditions for reversing its edict. Therefore expect shoppers and travellers to be in face-nappies for a very long time, perhaps even permanently, and for this supinely to be accepted.
Indeed, do not be surprised if the sanctimonious support which unfathomably appears to exist in Britain for mandatory masks emboldens the Government to keep extending their use into many more workplaces and public spaces, both indoors and out.
Which no doubt would delight the Government’s scientific advisers, who insouciantly have performed a handbrake turn on the efficacy of flimsy face coverings.
And no sooner had Johnson announced his ultra-cautious plan for a ‘more significant return to normality … possibly in time for Christmas’ than England’s medical mavens, Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty, made clear that they would not be contributing towards any such seasonal gift.
Last week both addressed the House of Lords’ science and technology committee, during which Sir Patrick warned that ‘come winter … there is a risk that this could need national measures’.
Whitty expressed doubt that the virus will ever be eliminated. However, instead of the country simply living with risk, as we surely must, he advocates indefinite distancing and other open-ended restrictions, all of which ‘need to continue for a long period of time’.
This fearmongering is from the same Chris Whitty who less than three months ago provided a far more level-headed perspective: ‘At an individual level, the chance of anybody watching this dying of coronavirus is actually low. Over the whole epidemic, even if we have no vaccine, a high proportion of people will not get this. Of those who do get it, a significant proportion … have no symptoms at all, they get it without even realising it. Of those who do get symptoms, the great majority – probably around 80 per cent – go on to have a mild or moderate disease … they make a full recovery.’
The professor’s springtime assessment, that for the overwhelming majority the virus is a minuscule threat, remains as true now as it was during the early days of the Government’s daily briefings, when Whitty and Vallance initially were valuable voices.
However, their recent evidence to the Lords’ committee indicates that Covid-19 has caused both men to develop tunnel vision: Fixated solely on the disease du jour, it seems neither appreciates the wider economic and social effects of having never-ending restrictions, nor does the cataclysmic impact of a second national lockdown appear to concern them.
Unlike the Government, neither Vallance nor Whitty will be held accountable for the mass unemployment which is about to descend. Nor, despite being medical and scientific advisers, are they likely to pay a personal price for having prioritised the new but low-mortality coronavirus over more deadly existing diseases: The Office for National Statistics predicts that fatalities due to delayed treatments will, shamefully, soon dwarf the number of casualties of Covid-19.
Last week, Sir Patrick also stated in evidence that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had recommended lockdown a week before the PM announced it on Monday, March 23. We take his word for that; nonetheless, it is odd that such a fundamental disagreement did not leak from SAGE at the time, and this belated revelation sounded like Sir Patrick starting to cover his rear.
Yesterday, TCW’s Will Jones highlighted another member of SAGE, Professor John Edmunds, whose reaction to the Prime Minister’s timid target of near-normality-by-Christmas was the impudent: ‘What we used to do until February and the middle of March this year … that’s a long way off … we won’t be able to do that until we are immune to the virus, which means until we have a vaccine that is proven safe and effective.’
A ‘safe and effective vaccine’ which might never arrive; in the meantime Edmunds, Vallance and Whitty all appear to believe that they and their group are dictating government policy.
If the country is to get back on its feet and we are ever to resume normal life, Boris Johnson must ignore the increasingly arrogant utterances of these blinkered scientists, whose latest advice is far from sage.