Lockdown measures imposed by governments to tackle coronavirus may be excessive and based on false assumptions, according to some senior doctors and scientists and former Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption.
Lord Sumption has criticised the British government’s lockdown measures on the grounds of liberty.
Writing in the Times, he raises concerns that Britain is being turned into a “police state” and that this may have disastrous long-term consequences:
Public pressure for action at whatever cost pushes the measures beyond what they can realistically expect to achieve. It may well push them beyond what is worth achieving if the price is the destruction of our personal liberty, livelihoods and sociability. There are dissenting voices, but not many and they are drowned out in a torrent of collective emotion and abuse.
Sumption cautioned that “There is a difference between law and official instructions. It is the difference between a democracy and a police state,” adding: “Liberty and the rule of law are surely worth something even in the face of a pandemic.”
Lord Sumption’s concerns about civil liberties echo those of conservative columnist Peter Hitchens, one of a small but growing number of British journalists — others include Andrew Neil and Quentin Letts — to suggest that government policy on the coronavirus is doing more harm than good.
As Hitchens told me on a special edition of the Delingpod podcast, he is deeply concerned about the “unprecedented curbs on liberties” which he thinks “neither a proportionate nor effective answer” to the pandemic.
“You get the news from Italy that huge numbers of people are being recorded as having died from the coronavirus who have actually died with the coronavirus. Their real problems were major heart problems, major lung problems, high blood pressure, and other things. Plus in almost all cases they were all very old,” he suggested.
The point about “co-morbidities” — the underlying health problems which may turn a survivable encounter with coronavirus into a fatal one — has also been made in the Spectator by Dr John Lee, a recently-retired Professor of Pathology and former senior National Health Service (NHS) consultant.
There is a big difference between Covid-19 causing death, and Covid-19 being found in someone who died of other causes.
According to Lee, the way deaths are recorded gives a false impression of how dangerous Covid-19 is and how great its fatality rate. He believes that this can in turn exert a distorting effect on government policy.
“The moral debate is not lives vs money,” he wrote.
“It is lives vs lives. It will take months, perhaps years, if ever, before we can assess the wider implications of what we are doing. The damage to children’s education, the excess suicides, the increase in mental health problems, the taking away of resources from other health problems that we were dealing with effectively. Those who need medical help now but won’t seek it, or might not be offered it,” he suggested.
“And what about the effects on food production and global commerce, that will have unquantifiable consequences for people of all ages, perhaps especially in developing economies?”
Governments everywhere say they are responding to the science. The policies in the United Kingdom are not the government’s fault. They are trying to act responsibly based on the scientific advice given.
But governments must remember that rushed science is almost always bad science.
Professor Dr Sucharit Bhakdi — an infectious medicine specialist and one of the most highly cited medical research scientists in German, formerly head of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz — has expressed similar concerns.
Here is an interview he gave earlier this month, transcribed from the German on Peter Hitchens’s blog.
Bhakdi describes the lockdown policies introduced in Germany and elsewhere as “grotesque, absurd, and very dangerous.”
“Our elderly citizens have every right to make efforts not to belong to the 2200 who daily embark on their last journey. Social contacts and social events, theatre and music, travel and holiday recreation, sports and hobbies , etc, etc, all help to prolong their stay on earth.
The life expectancy of millions is being shortened.
The horrifying impact on world economy threatens the existence of countless people. The consequences on medical care are profound. Already services to
patients who are in need are reduced, operations cancelled, practices empty, hospital personnel dwindling.
All this will impact profoundly on our whole society.
I can only say that all these measures are leading to self-destruction and collective suicide because of nothing but a spook.”
Governments like Boris Johnson’s in Britain claim they are only acting on the advice of “experts”. But which experts?
One of these, Professor Neil Ferguson, has continually revised downwards his scary prediction that 250,000 people were going to die of coronavirus in Britain. His response to Britain’s foot and mouth epidemic resulted in what is now largely regarded as the needless slaughter of millions of healthy animals.
So far in the United Kingdom, deaths from respiratory disease are 3,004 below the five-year average. Unless something dramatic changes, this would suggest that vast resources are being poured into trying to lengthen by a few months the lives of people who may have died soon anyway.
Here's a graph of respiratory deaths in Eng & Wales for the last 6 years. Thanks again to Hector Drummond blog reader David Clark for doing these and sending them to me.
For this to be a once-in-a-century health disaster, we're going to have to see a *lot* of exponential growth. pic.twitter.com/f9tun1MCA1
— Hector Drummond, high on a hill, a lonely goatherd (@hector_drummond) March 28, 2020
Meanwhile, there is evidence from other countries to suggest that it is possible to control coronavirus without shutting down the economy.
Here is an interview from Andrew Bolt’s Sky News programme in Australia which examines policy in Taiwan.
Taiwan, being so close to China, ought in theory to be greatly threatened by coronavirus. In reality, “life is pretty much the same as before the Covid-19 outbreak three months ago”‘ Only 260 people have been infected — and just two have died.
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