Lord Sumption has written an impressive piece in the Telegraph criticising the Government’s application of the so-called “precautionary principle” (assuming the worst when there is little evidence) and highlighting that the extreme measures taken in the hope of reducing the Covid death toll should have been based on “good reasons backed by evidence” which they weren’t, obviously.
The “sunk cost fallacy” is a well-known source of distortion in human decision-making. A decision is made which has destructive implications. The limited benefits and immense collateral damage gradually become apparent.
It is next to impossible for those involved in the decision to change their minds. No one wants to admit that it might all have been for nothing, even if that is the truth. They have invested too much in the decision to reverse out of the cul-de-sac. So they press on, more to avoid blame than to serve the public interest. This is what has happened to governments across Europe and to the dug-in body of specialists who advise them. Their recipe is simple: if lockdowns haven’t worked, there is nothing wrong with the concept. We just need more of them.
The former Supreme Court judge points to the “Overview of the Evidence” published by the Health Advisory and Recovery Team (HART) last week, which he thinks is an impressive document. “We cannot contribute to the science, but we can at least understand it,” he writes. “Those who are unwilling to do even that much have no moral right to demand coercive measures against their fellow citizens.”
The HART overview concludes that lockdowns “must never be repeated”. They “serve no useful purpose and cause catastrophic societal and economic harms“. It calls for a return to the pandemic plans prepared over a decade for just this sort of event by the UK and other governments and endorsed by the WHO. They were based on two principles. Avoid coercion and don’t go for one size-fits-all measures like lockdowns when the risks affect different groups differently. They recommended balanced public health guidance, no border closures and targeted action to assist those who are most vulnerable. These principles were abruptly jettisoned a year ago. They were replaced by an untried experiment, which there was neither time nor research to consider properly.
Lord Sumption says that the HART paper covers three core points which the proponents of lockdowns have never been able to answer. These are: the availability of international comparisons which show no relationship between the stringency of lockdown and the level of Covid infections or deaths; the unwillingness of governments to confront the collateral costs of locking down; and the fact that the burden of the lockdown has fallen mainly on those who are the least vulnerable to COVID-19.
Worth reading in full.