SATURDAY’S ANNOUNCEMENT of what amounts to a second national lockdown should be the final straw for Conservative voters in England. It smacks of an authoritarianism which politicians have been only too eager to adopt, while covering their own tracks into the bargain. Notwithstanding Covid sceptics (the death rate appears to be around 0.2% and to have peaked around mid-April), even if we take the establishment figures at their word, the success of South Korea and Taiwan suggests abject failure by the British Government. The British Medical Journal does a good job of explaining what Taiwan got right. According to the BMJ: “Three measures have been identified by researchers as critical steps in controlling the spread of Covid-19: contact-tracing, testing, and quarantine or isolation-treatment.”
Now Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and chairman Richard Tice have announced their intention to launch the ‘Reform Party’ on an anti-lockdown platform. The party would continue to keep a “close eye” on Brexit but would focus more strongly on institutions and policies which require change. The party listed the voting process, immigration, law and order, and the House of Lords as key issues.
Meanwhile Scottish Conservatives appear more intent on siding with Nicola Sturgeon in demands for furlough funding from HM Treasury whenever the Scottish Government demands it. feeding the nationalist dragon is putting it mildly. Where are unionists able to turn? Where are Scottish lockdown sceptics able to turn?
In the midst of all the ‘projections’ meanwhile King’s College London contradicted Imperial College London in suggesting that cases are not spiralling out of control. The World Health Organization (WHO) special envoy on Covid, Dr David Nabarro, again suggested national lockdowns should only be a backup plan. Dr Nabarro said a full national lockdown was “a very extreme restriction on economic and social life” that temporarily “freezes the virus in place”. He added: “You don’t want to use those as your primary, and I stress that, primary, means of containment. Because in the end living with the virus as a constant threat means maintaining the capacity to find people with the disease and isolating them.”
In addition, according to Professor Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson: “lockdowns do not work in the long term” and “kick the can down the road.” They argued: “The idea that a month of economic hardship will permit some sort of ‘reset’, allowing us a brighter future, is a myth. What, when it ends, do we think will happen? Meanwhile, ever-increasing restrictions will destroy lives and livelihoods.”
They claim: “We must address the problems in the Government’s mass testing programme; we must tackle the blight of confused and contradictory statistics; we must make real efforts to protect and isolate those who are vulnerable; and we must inform the public about the true and quantifiable costs of lockdown (as if they needed telling).” Meanwhile, “we must stop relying on yes/no test results alone and start looking at people’s age and symptoms, too”, while “calling for a national programme of testing quality control to ensure that results are accurate, precise and consistent.”
The fact the imposition of yet more measures does little more than kick the can down the road and likely delay a public enquiry would normally be grounds alone for a Conservative government to face the full force of electoral fury (this is not to endorse the toadying Labour hierarchy, providing little to no opposition in this sorry saga). But the fact alternative viewpoints are being shut down when in fact we would all benefit from the full spectrum of ideas being heard is especially worrying. Given the impact lockdowns are having on the world economy, one could be forgiven for thinking some Western politicians actually want China to have the world’s largest GDP.
I am not shocked to see growing opposition to lockdowns. No surprise either that non-party opposition is mobilising with the launch of Recovery – enjoying the support of scientists, medical experts in fields such as cancer and mental health – and business leaders. Messages calling for a turn to a more balanced approach – a socially distanced normality have been projected across public buildings in London to put the message over to the Government.
Once the scale of economic devastation is revealed, millions of Britons – many of whom are unemployed but don’t know it yet – will understand how much harm lockdowns have actually caused. The impact on education, mental health, financial wellbeing and medical appointments (according to Macmillan, there are up to an additional 50,000 people with undiagnosed cancer now) will become clear very soon.
This is a Government which appears to be trying to fix its failings by doubling-down. We are likely to see a sell-out on Brexit and likely to see the pandemic crisis used as cover for a shoddy deal. To say the UK is in desperate need of a fresh political movement to challenge this Government would be a gross understatement. This Government is now making a mockery of democracy itself.