Everything in science is preliminary, but one thing is certain about Covid-19. Lockdowns don't stop the disease.
They just postpone infections until they are gone. They can only work if they are kept in place indefinitely. We don't need epidemiologists or mathematical modellers to tell us this.
All we have to do is look out the window and see what is going on in the world. Infections are increasing in every country that has been banned.
We are now in the process of repeating a policy that has been shown to have failed.
Our government plans to destroy businesses and jobs, increase poverty, exacerbate mental illness and cause immeasurable distress to millions of active and healthy people who are unlikely to experience severe symptoms even if infected.
There will be layers of humbugs to divert attention from what they're doing. Ministers will moan violently at the pain they are causing as they assure us that it will all be worth it in the end.
The opposition leader will offer his support for some of the worst-reasoned decisions of modern times. But failed policies are never worth it.
If politicians want to be taken seriously, they have to answer serious questions that they have so far eluded.
Everything in science is preliminary, but one thing is certain about Covid-19. Lockdowns don't stop the disease. Two women wear face masks outside a Lancashire cafe before the Tier 3 ban goes into effect
We are now in the process of repeating a policy that has been shown to have failed. London (above) is pictured in Tier 2 Lockdown above
136 deaths were recorded yesterday, but scientists have warned that could climb to 690 by the end of the month
First, what are they trying to achieve? Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons last week that the goal was to "suppress" the virus. But what does that mean?
The government has accepted since May that Covid-19 will be with us in the long term. Its scientific advisors have consistently said that locks only buy time.
If the government is trying to buy time, which seems to be the best it could ever do, what is the point? The virus will still be there, waiting for us when the time is up.
Buy time until what? Until the NHS catches up? It caught up in April for which Mr Hancock deserves relentless praise.
Until the government gains enough basic skills to run a proper test-and-trace program? Will it ever?
Until there is a vaccine? We don't know when that will be or how effective it will be.
Some vaccines offer lifelong protection against smallpox or measles. The consensus seems to be that an anti-covid vaccine probably won't.
Like the flu vaccine, it seems more likely that it confers only partial and temporary immunity and then not everyone.
The most bizarre feature of the current situation is the refusal of ministers to learn from experience. If a complete lockdown of several months didn't work here or elsewhere, why does the government imagine that lesser measures like the rule of six, travel bans, curfews in pubs or two-week breakers work better?
In reality, we have no idea what our government thinks about it. In the absence of answers to these fairly obvious questions, we must assume that the ministers have no idea either. We are not told what their exit plan is, presumably because they don't have one, other than "something will show up".
Views in the world of epidemiologists and immunologists differ – around 35,000 scientists and public health doctors signed the Great Barrington Declaration, written two weeks ago by three eminent specialists.
They point out that indiscriminate attempts to stop infection prevent healthy people from gaining natural immunity, and that buying time will only prolong the crisis. Both are likely to increase the number of deaths.
The undersigned argue that we should protect the vulnerable at risk of serious illness or death and allow those who are not at risk to be exposed to the disease and gain some immunity.
Nobody, least of all the Declaration's authors, claims that this is a perfect solution. Not all deaths are eliminated. Natural immunity may not last (although it lasts at least as long as a vaccine).
There will be some whose vulnerabilities will not be identified. There will be vulnerable people who would rather take the risk and enjoy life. But it is a better choice than the current ill-conceived measures. The Great Barrington Declaration's approach may or may not be correct, but it is at least a coherent case. It piles up.
The government's case does not pile up. It is full of holes left by the silence of the ministers. So far, the only response from lockdown enthusiasts has been an attempt to smear the writers of Great Barrington with allegations that they are the tool of right-wing doctrinaires or anti-Semites. If there was a better answer than abuse, we would no doubt have heard it.
The program of the Great Barrington scientists is at least consistent with experience. The success of the Swedish model has been embarrassed by British ministers who have no answer.
Stockholm, where the spring epidemic was hardest hit, has a population density, age balance and public health system comparable to that of major UK cities. However, we preferred to follow the example of countries that did not contain the virus, rather than the one country that appeared to have succeeded.
There is a nasty divide between those who want to take sensible steps to protect themselves and live as normally as possible without becoming overdone and zealots who believe that the state should fundamentally take over and occupy our lives Living and keeping us infantilized at home. What happened to rational thinking in the UK?
Rational thinking has been banished by fear. Fear encourages rash reactions. This leads to intolerant conformism and bad-tempered abuse from those who step out of line.
If politicians want to be taken seriously, they have to answer serious questions that they have so far eluded. First, what are they trying to achieve? Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons last week that the goal was to "suppress" the virus. But what does that mean?
It provokes panicked calls for government action without thinking about the limits of what government action can achieve. This is an atmosphere in which proponents of coercion and authoritarian styles of government have always thrived.
However, the main culprits are not the public, but the ministers, who have themselves fallen into a trap. You have aroused people's fears of justifying their decisions and inducing compliance. They promised the impossible and when the inevitable failure occurred, they accused the public of failing to obey their orders. The real reason ministers have not dared answer the questions posed by their policies is because their purpose is not to quell the virus that they need to know is impossible. It is to protect yourself from responsibility.
They believe they will be criticized for the Covid-19 deaths, but that they will get away with the indirect consequences of their brutal countermeasures: cancer deaths, loneliness and mental breakdowns, poverty and the destruction of jobs, public and private Bankrupt. The truth is the first victim of this process, but it is not high on this administration's agenda.
After falling into a coercive pattern, the government does not dare to change course for fear of discrediting its own previous decisions.
But fear also has its limits. When public confidence wanes, it is forced to maintain the atmosphere of panic through hyped alarms, misleading statistics, draconian fines, threats of bullying, appeals to sneaks and informants, and disregard for the core values by which people live.
I have not yet met anyone in London who intends to comply with the ban on taking friends and family into their home. Here's one final question for the government to answer: why on earth should they?
(tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) Debate (t) Coronavirus