AS A result of Covid-19 I have lost friends, family and colleagues. None of them has died – in fact, I know personally only two people who have even contracted it – I have simply lost them. The reason is that they disagree with me over almost everything concerned with the pandemic, the extent to which Covid-19 is a real threat, the necessity for lockdown and the wearing of face masks.
Since the outset of lockdown in the UK I have been clear that this was a bad move and that it would lead only to harmful outcomes. I have published to this effect consistently in the Salisbury Review, The Conservative Woman, Lockdown Sceptics and Unity New Network. I have spoken at local anti-lockdown rallies. I never expected to be agreed with fully or to have these activities met with enthusiasm, but I did expect a polite exchange of views. Instead, the opprobrium has been vitriolic and the personal attacks on Twitter and Facebook almost beyond belief at times, even for Twitter and Facebook. The most worrying aspect is that unfailing politeness and presentation of facts seem to have no effect. People have adopted a view on the pandemic, and few have shifted.
The usual tropes are accusations of being a Covid-denier and an anti-vaxxer. I am neither. I have never propounded the view that the virus does not exist and, despite some initial doubts, I have been increasingly convinced that it does exist. My view has shifted with the evidence. Covid-19 has been sequenced and is isolated repeatedly from disparate samples. My Twitter feed makes this clear. I have also written about arguments to be used to counter the anti-vaxxers. All to no avail. Not only do people adopt a stance on the pandemic; the most worrying aspect is that they adopt a view about me as a person and stick to it. I am at a loss to explain this: I have had many heated but polite discussions with family, friends and colleagues about other topics including politics and religion which have not led to us going our separate ways.
It seems that the more extreme the issue one questions, the more venomous the response. There seems to be no ‘happy ground’ between the Covid-orthodox and anyone who raises questions about the response to it. I was shocked by the scenes in Melbourne of a young lady being forced to the ground by police for not wearing a mask and a man, clearly in distress and almost undoubtedly with mental health problems, being restrained by police and having a face mask attached to him. The pièce de résistance was the handcuffing and arrest of a pregnant woman in front of her family for raising questions publicly about the Victoria lockdown. I expressed concerns to some nursing colleagues in Australia to which the only reply, one that frankly seemed rehearsed, was ‘but it’s a nasty virus’. One of them no longer corresponds with me.
Closer to home, my anti-lockdown activities have caught the attention of the local press and the city council, as they were intended to do. The response? Not a single counter-fact, not one link to material with which I could engage and thereby come to see the error of my ways. Instead, on three occasions I have been ‘reported’ to my employers at a university and to my vice-chancellor on the basis that I am a health professional and should, therefore, support all the measures being taken to manage the pandemic. One complainant, who remained anonymous, used the expression ‘have a word’. I am incredibly grateful to my vice-chancellor, who seems to believe in free speech. But what have we become, nationally, when merely questioning the government line – demonstrably ineffective and damaging – earns you such treatment?
I am not alone, either in academia or in healthcare. There are the brave and much-derided souls from HART who published the recent Covid-19 response, and the original signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration. There are others brave enough to voice their fears, for example, in TCW, Lockdown Sceptics and spiked online. Others who write anonymously and many who write personally to people like me in support of our actions, do not want to be identified to their employer – usually the NHS – for fear of reprisals. Again I ask: What have we become? I can only conclude that, as I suggested recently, the British Bulldog has been tamed or replaced with a poodle.