The UK prime minister has, in his infinite wisdom, decided to impose a raft of new restrictions to avoid another lockdown after the first one was such a resounding success. These measures are shameful.
I hope you all enjoyed those precious few weeks of semi-freedom. I, like all Britons, will look back on the summer of 2020 fondly. A time when we all dressed like dandy highwaymen to go shopping and surrendered our personal details to pub staff wearing visors and wielding thermometer pistols. We gathered in groups of seven, sometimes more, Rishi Sunak bought us all dinner, the Welsh re-opened the border, and millionaires knelt in empty stadia as sport returned to our screens. Shall we ever know such halcyon days again?
Not anytime soon, if our dear leader’s latest statement is anything to go by. Earlier today, Boris Johnson decided to relieve himself over the nation’s collective bonfire with the force of an authoritarian Grand National winner. His stable lads, Whitty and Vallance, had prepared the ground for him a day earlier, by publishing a graph designed purely to help people get through the last of their stockpiled bog roll. With the proviso that it “wasn’t a prediction”, they then proceeded to tell the nation that 49,000 people a day could be getting the dreaded ’rona by mid-October, if we didn’t do something drastic. Lo and behold, a day later something drastic has been done.
Boris has decided that pubs and restaurants now have to chuck out drinkers and diners by 10pm because, apparently, Covid-19 doesn’t like to go out before then. This comes less than a month after his government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which actively encouraged people to dine out, drew to a close.
Having spent the past few weeks begging people to get out of their pyjamas and back in the office, he changed his tune and went back to telling all who can to return to working from home. Mask wearing has been extended to retail staff, drivers and passengers in taxis, and patrons in indoor hospitality venues, except when seated at a table to eat or drink. The fine for improper muzzle use has been doubled to £200 for a first offence. And best of all, BoJo says these rules may remain in place for “perhaps six months”.
Can anyone else remember back in March, when we had three weeks to slow the spread, flatten the curve, so we locked down for the first time? If that was such a resounding success, why are we steadily shutting down the country again? Why will it be six months this time? Why not three months? Why not 12 months? Why not just indefinitely until we find a cure for death?
When we first went into lockdown the argument for it was to ensure that the sainted NHS was not overwhelmed. Well, it wasn’t and it isn’t. It has, in fact, been decidedly underwhelmed for most of the year. The Nightingale hospitals built back in the dim and distant past of April have stood mostly empty. Several were mothballed. This last particular lunacy was brought in off the back of Professor Neil Ferguson’s warning that half a million people could die in Britain if we didn’t impose a lockdown. This was a warning Ferguson took so seriously that, while he was telling the rest of the nation to socially distance and isolate, he was having sex with someone else’s wife.
We now know that Covid-19 is nowhere near as fatal as had been initially feared, and if you’re under 65, the chances of dying from it are minuscule. The average age of people succumbing to the disease across the UK is 81 for men and 85 for women. Across England, Covid-19 did not feature in the top-20 causes of death for August, and the total number of deaths for that month is below the five-year average.
What sort of a deadly pandemic results in fewer people dying than have shuffled off this mortal coil in normal times? What is the endgame of these curbs on our freedom? Are we to keep opening up and locking down again until we have a vaccine for this mostly non-fatal disease? Does Covid-19 have to be eradicated like smallpox before we can socialise normally again? Are we waiting for Jesus himself to return and tell us all everything is fine? I can’t answer these questions because the government plainly doesn’t have a bloody clue what it’s doing.
Even if we were to hit the high of 200 Covid deaths a day by November – although based on the infection increases in France and Spain, this seems wildly unlikely – that is not actually a vast number, when you consider that, on average, more than 1,600 people die every day in the UK. Even if we reached the much-touted figure of 50,000 new cases a week, if 49,800 (or 99.6 percent) of them weren’t hospitalised, given that most will be fit and healthy people who won’t even be that unwell, would that really a problem worth crippling the economy for?
Sweden didn’t impose a lockdown, has no plans to do so, and, though it made the same mistake many other countries did when it came to protecting the elderly in care homes, it hasn’t seen bodies piling up in the streets. Its economy is in a much healthier state than many other nations and its R rate is dropping. It might make sense to follow this model on the grounds that, er, it appears to have actually been immensely successful. But no politician in Britain is brave enough to make the case for preserving freedom in the face of hysterical cries of “you’re killing Granny”.
The other possibility is that they’re simply unable to admit they got it so catastrophically wrong last time. As proven incompetents, shouldn’t they just do the decent thing and resign?
So, enjoy the next six months of reduced freedom, regional lockdowns, more mask wearing and out of context statistics designed to scare the bejesus out of you. After all, since the first lockdown was so plainly effective in ridding us of this disease, why wouldn’t we do it all once more with feeling?