I did not want to rant about the Coronabug crisis again, but the situation is going from bad to worse and there does not seem any let up in the confusion. I once worked for the government of Bishop Abel Muzorewa in Zimbabwe Rhodesia and did not for one moment imagine that there could be a more shambolic method of governing a country, but I was wrong. The British government at the moment are running around like a bunch of headless chickens.
The most ridiculous aspect of the current situation is the refusal of Ministers to learn from experience. If a total lockdown of several months did not work, either here or anywhere else, why does the Government imagine that lesser measures such as the Rule of Six, travel bans, pub curfews or two-week ‘circuit-breakers’ will do any better?
The reality is we have no idea what our Government thinks it is doing. In the absence of answers to these fairly obvious questions, we have to assume that Ministers have no idea either. We are not told what their exit plan is, presumably because they do not have one, apart from ‘Something will turn up – perhaps.’
There is a variety of different views in the world of epidemiologists and immunologists – thirty five thousand public health scientists and medical practitioners recently signed the ‘Great Barrington Declaration,’ drawn up by three eminent specialists a fortnight ago.
They point out that indiscriminate attempts to stop infections prevent healthy people from acquiring natural immunity and that buying time only prolongs the crisis. Both of these things are likely to increase deaths. Why can’t our lords and masters see that? The signatories argue that we should protect the vulnerable who are at risk of serious illness or death and allow the others who are not at risk to be exposed to the disease and acquire some immunity.
This is surely basic common sense?
Nobody, least of all the declaration’s authors pretends that this is a perfect solution. It will not eliminate all deaths. Natural immunity may not last – although it will last at least as long as a vaccine.
There will be some whose vulnerabilities are not identified. There will be vulnerable people who would rather take the risk and enjoy life. But it is a better bet than the current load of Mickey Mouse measures. The Great Barrington Declaration approach may or may not be right but it is at least a coherent case. It makes sense damnit!
The Government’s case on the other hand makes no sense at all. It is full of holes, left by the silence of Ministers. So far, the only response of the lockdown enthusiasts has been an attempt to smear the Great Barrington authors with allegations they are the tools of Right-wing doctrinaires or anti-semites. If there was a better answer than childish abuse, we would no doubt have heard it.
The programme of the Great Barrington scientists is at least consistent with experience. The success of the Swedish model has been passed over in embarrassment by UK Ministers who have no answer to it. Stockholm, where the epidemic struck hardest earlier in the year has a density of population, an age balance and a public health system comparable to those of major British cities. Yet our government in their wisdom have preferred to follow the example of countries that have failed to contain the virus rather than the one country that appears to have succeeded.
At the moment. there is a nasty divide opening up between those who want to take reasonable steps to protect themselves and live as normally as possible without going over the top and zealots who think that, as a matter of principle the state should take over our lives, occupy our sitting rooms and keep us infantilised at home. What has happened to rational thought in this beleaguered country?
It seems to me that any sort of joined up thinking has been banished by fear. Fear encourages unthinking responses. It leads to intolerant conformism and ill-tempered abuse of anyone who steps out of line with government thinking.
It provokes panicked demands for official action, without reflecting on just what government action can achieve. This is an atmosphere in which the advocates of authoritarian styles of government have always thrived. I have seen it at first hand in a number of African countries.
It seems to me that the main culprits for this state of affairs are Ministers who find themselves in a trap of their own making. In the beginning, they stoked up people’s fears to justify their decisions and induce compliance. They promised the impossible and when the inevitable failure came, they blamed it on us, the public for not complying with their commands. The real reason Ministers have not dared to answer the questions posed by their policies is that their purpose is not to suppress the virus, which they must know is impossible. It is to shield themselves from responsibility.
They know damned well that they will be criticised for the Coronabug deaths but hope they will get away with the indirect consequences of their brutal measures – the cancer deaths, the loneliness and mental breakdowns, the poverty and job destruction, the public and private bankruptcy. Truth is the first victim of this process but it is not very high on this Government’s agenda. Having got itself into a pattern of coercion, the Government does not dare to change course, for fear of discrediting its own past decisions.
Yet even fear has its limits. As public trust drains away, it is forced to keep up the atmosphere of panic by ever more hyped-up alarms, misleading statistics, draconian fines, bullying threats, appeals to sneaks and complete disregard for the basic values by which people live.
From the reports and photographs coming out of London and other major cities since the new lock downs were imposed, it doesn’t seem that many people intend to comply with the ban on receiving friends and family in their house or any of the other draconian restrictions for that matter. And why on earth should they?
A few months ago our Revered Leader proudly told us that he and his asinine sidekick, Mathew Hancock were investing twelve billion pounds of taxpayers’ money in a ‘world beating’ Test and Trace system. At the moment that system is a laughing stock with anyone capable of rational thought. Even the government’s own scientific advisory panel SAGE tells us that the system is making only a ‘marginal’ difference to infection rates – and SAGE have to protect their own somewhat shaky reputations.
Even if everyone who develops symptoms of the Coronabug faithfully reports them and submits for a test, what happens about the people – four out of every five cases, according to some studies – who do not develop symptoms but who are still infectious? To catch them, you would need to test everyone, every few days.
Test and trace excites the natural authoritarians who inhabit the Government, the civil service and the police. But it is not going to defeat the virus – it will only poison the relations between the public and the state.
And the entire system is proving almost unbelievably inefficient. On Sunday, people with suspected Coronabug systems were sent to a non-existent site in Kent, How can this happen in this computerised age damnit and surely it proves that the system is not fit for purpose?
Council officials in Sevenoaks said the address had been listed on the government website for people to arrange appointments on the national booking portal. However, the mobile testing unit, which was meant to be introduced in response to a local rise in Coronabug rates, was not deployed to start on site that day for ‘an unknown reason.’ However it did not prevent a number of people driving around the facility for up to an hour before realising it was not operational.
Angie Waters, whose seventy four-year-old husband suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was among those who had booked a test at the park-and-ride site in Otford Road.
Waters, who had developed a cough, told the BBC that the situation was an ‘absolute fiasco.’ She said: “I thought to be on the safe side I’d better get tested, I don’t want to put my husband at risk. It was just a joke. I spoke to one woman who said she had been going round for an hour.”
Peter Fleming, the Sevenoaks district council leader, told reporters that they had been asked by government officials to try to identify a suitable site in the area but none had been properly authorised at that stage. When asked how this could have happened, he replied: “Appears that they were aiming for it to be open this weekend; however, it hadn’t had their final signoff. However, it still made it into the test site list.”
For the pedants among you, I know that the repetition of ‘however’ does not sound right, but I am merely quoting!
Another spokesperson for the council apologised to anyone who made a wasted journey, advising those with bookings to arrange a postal test or arrange an appointment at another venue.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are aware of an issue with an incorrect testing location in Sevenoaks. This issue has now been resolved and people are being redirected to the correct site.
‘NHS Test and Trace is providing tests at the unprecedented scale of more than 270,000 tests per day nationally and we are on track to achieve capacity for 500,000tests a day by the end of October.’’
How can anybody have any faith in this lot. Even the Chacma baboons in my own country are better able to organise their lives than Bunter J and his pathetically disorganised bunch of turnips.
Speaking of turnips, Sir Oliver Letwin, who retired at the last election after twenty two years as a Tory MP, says he doesn’t miss the ‘unending’ day to day correspondence of twenty thousand emails and letters a year.
Responding to it all involved dictating ‘two to three hours a day to a highly accomplished secretary,’ he told Dorset Magazine.
“If anyone wrote individually, I tried to reply personally – that is what my constituents deserved.” Lofty rhetoric but hardly believable. This is the very same Oliver Letwin who – as a minister – was photographed dumping over a hundred documents, including constituents’ letters, in bins in St James’s Park.
To the complete and very blatant hypocrisy of politicians must be added the fact of their total incompetence I am afraid.
Please Mr Johnson, let us get on with our lives and I write as a person in the group most vulnerable to the Coronabug.