On Wednesday, the Telegraph ran the foreboding front-page headline ‘Second wave forecast to be more deadly than first’.
TCW’s Will Jones scrutinised the statistics behind this menacing message and concluded that ‘none of [the data] amounts to a devastating “second wave” that justifies ongoing ruinous, totalitarian restrictions’.
Unsurprisingly, though, Sky News used that hair-raising headline as the lead item on its Tuesday night Press Preview. The Telegraph’s trepidation was compounded by a similarly scaremongering lead story in the Guardian, headlined ‘Calls for national lockdown grow as UK death toll exceeds 60,000’.
Differing views on the veracity of those doom-laden dispatches led to a verbal skirmish between (remote) reviewers Sonia Sodha, leader writer for the Observer and columnist on the Guardian (her opinions can be gleaned from that CV alone) and lockdown sceptic Isabel Oakeshott.
Earlier in the coronavirus crisis, Sodha squealed that the initial lockdown was imposed late and lifted early; for her, governmental constraints on liberty and livelihoods have always been too slow and insufficiently severe.
On Press Preview she recited from a similar script, complaining that ‘a national circuit-breaker has come too late’ and questioning ‘whether Tier 3 restrictions go far enough’. Sodha’s yearning for more social constrictions echoes the editorial line of the Leftist titles for which she writes, in spite of which she astonishingly asserted that ‘no one is pro-lockdown’. She could have fooled me.
‘Absolute rubbish’, was the rejoinder from Isabel Oakeshott. ‘Rather a lot of people do seem to want lockdown. Let’s start with the Guardian that has this ridiculous headline . . . the Guardian could quite easily have come up with a headline which says there are plenty of people calling for no lockdown . . . [it’s] a selective story.’
As an example of the anti-lockdown resistance, Oakeshott cited the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), which argues for ‘focused protection’ thus: ‘The most compassionate approach . . . is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.’
Those words were written by a triumvirate accurately described by Oakeshott as ‘very eminent scientists from Stanford, Harvard and Oxford’; many co-signatories are equally esteemed. The reason Isabel had to remind viewers of their bona fides is that Sodha startlingly dismissed the authors of the GBD as ‘so-called scientists’, who ‘have been absolutely trashed’ by what she terms (with verbal capitals) The Scientific Community.
Yes, in the expert opinion of a Guardian/Observer hack, world-renowned professors of epidemiology Jay Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta and Martin Kulldorff are scorned as ‘so-called scientists’. Indeed, Sodha disparaged the trio’s proposals to the extent that Isabel Oakeshott accused sneering Sonia of ‘a complete misrepresentation; I would say it’s actually libellous of the people behind the GBD’.
Sodha talks of the ‘extraordinary reaction [to the GBD] in The Scientific Community’ as though all reputable scientists speak with a single voice – one which is intolerant of dissent from the prevailing orthodoxy that ‘in a global pandemic you use social restrictions to control infection rates’.
On Press Preview, she reverentially referred to the ‘evidence from Sage’ as though it is holy writ. Yet that myopic group’s only metric is the transmission of Covid-19, and the only tactic it recommends results in the loss of liberty and livelihoods.
There is, however, an alternative and increasingly persuasive vision. Which might be why, in an op-ed earlier this month, shutdown-supporting Sodha derided the authors of the GBD as ‘self-important . . . with little idea about how to engage with the real world’
– an insult which might better describe this particular Guardian columnist.