The COVID-19 pandemic has been a bonanza for government officials, allowing them to extend authority that they then exercise with relatively little oversight or restraint in ways that would have been inconceivable in the past. It has accelerated the transformation of previously free societies into permission-based states, where things once done as a matter of right are now considered privileges to be dispensed or withheld by those in power. Case in point: the Biden administration reportedly discussed making travel within the United States conditional on vaccination status but is holding back out of fear that the public has yet to be sufficiently softened-up for such an intrusive restriction.
The pandemic has generated more statistics than any other event in the history of the world, though too often their interpretation tends to the obfuscatory rather than illuminating.
Last week Sarah Knapton, our award winning Science Editor, rumbled the new NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard “massaging the figures”. Her alarmist claim of a fourfold increase of “really unwell” young adults being admitted to hospital turned out to be suspect on several counts.
The figures Pritchard cited could not apparently be independently confirmed, as “the age range chosen is not one recognised in official data sets”. Next, while the proportion of the young in hospital has certainly risen, this is only because, thanks to the vaccination programme, the numbers of the elderly has collapsed, down 90 per cent compared to the winter peak with most being discharged after just four days.
The restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic are just the start of it. People have been confined to their houses, prevented from going to school or work, denied the freedom to cross state borders even to see a dying relative, and coerced to take a vaccine in order hopefully to regain the freedoms that were once their birthright.
Worse, these restrictions are being imposed by authoritarians who have seemingly come from nowhere and now dominate all of Australia’s positions of power, from the government to big business. These people are unlike any ruling elite Australia has ever known.