Article 25

A Critique of Lockdown.

In an article in The Sunday Telegraph of 20/9/20, entitled “Where is the evidence for going back into lockdown?”,  Daniel Hannan begins by opining that ‘lockdowns arguably make sense as an emergency measure, a way to buy time and build response-capacity’; but that ‘they are no answer to an endemic virus’; that ‘they are the bluntest and most destructive of instruments; that ‘they offer no exit strategy; and that ‘surveying the data from around the world (shows) precious little evidence that they actually work’.  He then states that he defies any one, presented with a set of un-headed graphs showing the infection and fatality rates in different nations to guess which had closed their economies and which had not’; that ‘back in March people were predicting almost an extinction level event in Sweden which had defied international pressure and kept its shops, schools and restaurants open; and that in fact the disease there followed pretty much the same trajectory as here – with the difference that Sweden is not worried about a second wave and suffered less than half the economic hit we did’; that supporters of lockdown have since come forward with all sorts of explanations’, such as that ‘Swedes are apparently, a solitary and morose people who practice social distancing even in normal times’; that ‘they are more likely to live alone’; that ‘their population density is low’. ‘Well maybe’, he responds, ‘but no one was saying these things in March’; that cognitive dissonance is a powerful force’; that ‘when a new fact challenges our prejudice, we question the fact more readily than the prejudice’; that ‘yet the facts keep piling up’; that ‘even countries which practiced no social distancing at all have avoided disaster; that ‘Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus decided early on that his citizens were immune’.

Daniel Hannan proceeds to recall that ‘it’s a similar story on every continent’; that ‘Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonara was condemned for his laissez-faire approach’; that ‘yet his country has fared far better than Daniel Hannan’s native Peru which won plaudits for its prompt and harsh crackdown’; that ‘indeed, the way the corona virus peaked and dropped off in developing countries, even in slum populations where self-isolation was impossible, confounded every earlier prediction’; that in ‘giving evidence to MPs, Professor Francesco Checchi, and epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medecine, observed that even in war torn Yemen, which was in no position to apply social distancing, hospitalisations had been falling since June’; and that given the foregoing, Daniel Hannan asks ‘why in heaven’s name are we thinking about another clampdown here‘?  ’Why have we continued to mandate local closures without any evidence that they make a difference’?  His response is that ‘it won’t do to say “better safe than sorry”, or ‘I’d rather err on the side of caution’. Instead, he himself says that ‘when you are proposing measures which destroy lives and livelihoods, throw people out of work, wreck children’s education, drive up deaths from cancer and suicide and remove our basic freedoms, the onus is on you to prove your case’; that ‘indeed, with such high stakes, the burden of proof must be commensurately heavy’; that ‘it isn’t enough to show that, on balance, lockdowns might have had some (positive) impact’; that ‘you need to demonstrate incontestable and significant benefits’. 

In contrast, he declares that ‘no one looking at the numbers, can do this’; that ‘the only clear argument for lockdowns was the initial one, namely that they would slow transmission while we increased our hospital capacity and found which treatments worked best’; that ‘this was the basis on which the closures were originally proposed – supposedly for three weeks’; and that ‘no one has since come up with a better justification’.  However, he states that ‘once the prohibitions had been imposed, they took on a momentum of their own; that every cluster, every rise in fatality rates, was turned into an argument for even stricter rules’; that ‘the revelation that infection rates had peaked on March 18, five days before the lockdown had been declared, should have invalidated that logic’; but that ‘we were beyond hope by then’; that ‘the thought that the disruption might have been unnecessary was too painful to contemplate’; that ‘by and large, we didn’t contemplate it’; that ‘just as politicians are susceptible to public opinion, so are their advisers’; that ‘they know they won’t get into trouble for excessive caution’; that ‘as long as the public continues to clamour for curfews and bans- and it is a fact that perceived threats make people more authoritarian – the various medical committees which advise the world’s governments will be reluctant to recommend liberalisation’; but that ‘with every day that passes it becomes clearer that the disease has not grown exponentially anywhere’; that ‘something checks it, pretty much regardless of the policies being pursued locally’; that ‘an increasing number of epidemiologists believe that that something is a partial immunity bestowed by exposure to past corona viruses which would explain why East Asia with its recent experience of Sars has fared so well’; and that ‘a recent survey in the BMJ notes that at least six studies suggest a high degree of pre-existing immunity’; and that ‘if that is the case – and it would fit the observed facts much better than the earliest catastrophic models – then most of what is being done by most governments is pointless’.

Again, I say, we must replace belief with knowledge before enacting any policy in future. Indeed, at this point, I ask, if infection does not produce immunity, how would immunisation produce it?         21/9/20.       

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