In an alternate universe, responsible scientists spoke up forthrightly against cruel and useless lockdowns, rather than canceling the scientists who did, or equivocating to keep in the good graces of the lockdowners.
The scaremongers have overplayed their hand. Omicron could prove disastrous, they warned. They scoffed at the early indicators from South Africa suggesting it was milder than Delta. ‘MYTH BUSTER’, declared the Sun when Chris Whitty poured cold water on the idea that Omicron might be milder than Delta. ‘Deaths could hit 6,000 a day [in Britain]’, screamed the Guardian, turning Sage’s worst-case scenario into a chilling headline. The news was full of it: we’re doomed.
Yet now it seems pretty clear that these fearful prophecies were way off. Just a week after we were being bombarded with these visions of the Biblical horrors Omicron would visit upon our nation, it’s being reported that this variant really is milder than the Delta one. This raises some really serious questions for the expert classes who are meant to be guiding us through this health crisis. Have they lost the plot? And now, will they lose the trust of the people?
My daughter’s Christmas won’t quite be the same this year. She and I are in England but her French mother has been prevented from making the trip by her president. It’s a funny world when hundreds of people can quite easily cross illegally from France to England in small boats – 1,200 in four days last week – but a mother isn’t allowed to take a train to be with her daughter at Christmas.
But that is France for you in what Macron’s opponents call his ‘Covid Dictatorship’. Even so his authoritarian measures are doing him and his country a fat lot of good. Yesterday France recorded 91,000 new cases of Covid, around the same as England, this contaminated little island that Macron so hates. One might have hoped such vertiginous figures would prompt a rethink in the Élysée. Has it occurred to Macron that perhaps Covid passports aren’t the answer? They were introduced in July and what have they achieved, other than to segregate France?
So Macron’s solution is to tighten restrictions still further. Dependent on parliamentary ratification (a foregone conclusion) as of January 2022 people in France will require not just proof of three vaccinations to enter most public places but also to show a negative PCR test.
data from the UK is showing that only 1 in 3 recent “covid hospitalizations” is actually in the hospital for covid. the vast majority were there for something else and tested positive after admission. this is literally tripling the reported count of new patients.
Study shows Omicron less virulent than other variants in preclinical model. Better at spreading but less viral entry into lung tissue, less lung damage, and less morbidity in animal model. Cases becoming very much uncoupled from disease. Covid policies need updating.
‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…” Rarely have Kipling’s words been more apt. Last month, news that a new variant of Covid had been detected in South Africa caused many to lose their heads. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine predicted that there could be more than 7,000 daily Covid hospitalisations by January. Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial College forecast that, without more restrictions, deaths could rise to 5,000 a day.
Newspapers and the BBC passed these claims on uncritically, sometimes exaggerating them in the telling. Their voices joined together in a general hubbub of panic. And who was to blame? Why, Boris Johnson, of course! Even as the country faced an apocalyptic plague, the PM was supposedly idling around like some bloated, wise-cracking Falstaff, more interested in indulging his libertarian backbenchers than in saving lives.
As his critics grew shriller, Boris kept his head, pushing boosters, but refusing to shut Britain down pre-emptively. Across Europe, countries decreed bans and prohibitions. But the PM stuck to what should have been a basic principle throughout, refusing to reverse the burden of proof. The onus was on those who wanted illiberal measures to show that they were necessary, not on defenders of the status quo to show that they were not.
Lockdowners tried all their old tricks. Sage produced models that left almost no room for the possibility that omicron might be relatively mild. Worst-case scenarios were selectively leaked and reported as central forecasts. Downing Street press conferences became a series of ritualistic demands for crackdowns. Labour insisted that Boris do something; and, while it was vague about what that something should be, it was very clear that any uptick in deaths would be entirely his fault. Again and again, we were told that, by refusing to act in time, the PM had condemned us to a longer and harder lockdown later.
Still – and I must apologise for my indelicacy in repeatedly bringing this up – there was a control in the experiment all along. Sweden annoyed the world’s media by refusing to join the rush to house arrest. As a Swedish MP told me at the time: “We didn’t really have a contingency plan of our own, we borrowed Britain’s – and we were quite surprised when you guys dropped it.”
Sweden banned big meetings, made some classes online and introduced table-only service in bars, but otherwise trusted people to use their nous. The result, in medical terms, was not out of the ordinary. Sweden did slightly worse than the European average in terms of overall deaths, though its rating may now improve: last week, data published by The Economist showed that Sweden’s overall excess mortality in 2021 was the lowest in Europe.
By any other measure, Sweden’s performance was enviable. It did not suffer anything like the hit to education, employment or mental health that the rest of us did, and faces 2022 without the mountains of debt we have taken on.
David Hart calls the tyranny that ravaged humanity for the past two years “hygiene socialism.” Others call this tyranny the “biosecurity state.” Telegraph columnist Tim Stanley calls it “the medical-socialist state.” Two slices:
If 2020 was the heroic year of the pandemic, a year of “save the NHS” and Operation Moonshot, 2021 was when it sank in that the virus wasn’t going away, it was just going to evolve and the restrictions along with it. No, we are not locked down – yet – but if we do venture out, it’s masks, passports and in some parts of Britain rules so silly that they seem as irrational as avoiding ladders and black cats. The broadcast media is obsessed with case numbers; you can’t ride a train without being lectured by the guards on etiquette. To save the NHS, we turned the entire country into an outpatients ward.
Any drumbeat compelling us to care, like the constant advice on masks and handwashing, undermines the voluntary instinct to do the right thing. I paraphrase Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, on the ethical quagmire of mandatory vaccines: it transforms medicine from something done for the community to something done to the community.
This year has crystallised for me one of the things that most defines the conservative personality: a hatred of being told what to do. It’s not crude individualism; most conservatives happily juggle loyalties, including family and faith, and carry obligations as comfortably as a tortoise does its shell. But they don’t like being swept up in utopian dreams, or taking orders from people who want to change them to suit their design for life. The themes of lockdown and climate change are conservative: self-sacrifice, conservation. The methods have been anything but. The idea that we must never go back to a pre-2020 normal, that this is a wake-up call to change everything, is frightening.
Phil Magness has been unsparing in his just criticisms of those persons – including Sam Bowman and many others with pro-liberty proclivities – who express admiration for the draconian zero-Covid authoritarianism of governments in places such as Australia and China. Here’s an image recently shared on Facebook by Phil: