Now let’s look at the Gray Lady, America’s newspaper of record. On 22nd January 2020, the Times ran an article titled ‘Scale of China’s Wuhan Shutdown Is Believed to Be Without Precedent’.
“China,” the author wrote, “is engaging in a balancing act with a long and complicated history fraught with social, political and ethical concerns.”
The author quoted a legal expert, who said that “the shutdown would almost certainly lead to human rights violations and would be patently unconstitutional in the United States”. This expert said that selective quarantines “could be effective”, but that China’s response “goes much further than that”.
Fast forward to March, and the Times was out in force making the case for a national lockdown. “All Americans need to shelter in place,” the editorial thundered. Like in The Guardian’s pro-lockdown editorials, no mention was made of “human rights”.
However, the paper did find space to write that “the United States still has a chance to apply hard lessons learned by China”.
Throughout the early autumn, senior politicians raised the social temperature by delivering ever more troubling messages. A procession of ‘emergency meetings’ followed by sombre late night press conferences prepared the population for tightened Covid pass regulations. The autocratic Health Minister Wolfgang Muckstein (a medical doctor) announced that once a threshold of 600 intensive care patients had been reached, there would be a “lockdown for the unvaccinated”. ‘They’ would only be allowed to leave their accommodation in exceptional circumstances. This might include a short walk (maintaining a disease defeating distance from passers-by), trips to the supermarket, chemist or work. There has been political musing around the possibility of banning the unvaccinated from the houses of the recovered/vaccinated, forcing ‘them’ to wear masks in all public spaces, declaring non-essential shops off limits and even preventing the use of long distance public transport.
Yet, somehow, we are still in “do something!” mode. At the first sign of trouble, the calls for lockdowns, restrictions and vaccine passports rise to a clamour. Journalists fill press conferences with endless rounds of questions about why we aren’t “doing more”. The question of when exactly we plan to return to a normal level of risk appetite goes unasked, let alone answered.
The forever-lockdown crowd have some points on their side, as they always do. We don’t know much about the latest variant. It has a lot more mutations than prior ones, they say, and might be even more transmissible. We don’t know if it’s deadlier or milder. We don’t know whether it will escape our vaccines more easily or not. It could all be a disaster, the end of the world, the wave to end all waves. Or not.
There are some things we do know, however. We know that new variants are now a permanent fact of life. We know that they will find their way here with or without these pointless “travel bans”. We know that fast-spreading variants will soon, like others before them, become endemic. We know that we have seven vaccines and counting in our arsenal.
Schools are among the most prolific spreaders of Covid safety-ism, when they should be the ones fighting hardest against it for the sake of their students. Bans on shaking hands, masking, cancelled nativity plays, draconian sickness policies: everything must still operate in the shadow of the virus.
A reporter asked me about border closures to address the emergence of the nu variant. I think they will cause unnecessary collateral harm, doing nothing to stop the ultimate spread of the variant.
It’s problematic when the same person (Fauci) directs both pandemic policy and the largest funder of infectious disease research (NIAID). Scientists must be able to oppose public health policies without fear of losing research funds.
I just pre-ordered Scott Atlas’s new book, A Plague Upon Our House.