If the Government was truly following the science, it would not delay the lifting of lockdown restrictions beyond June 21st, according to David Paton. Instead, as the Professor of Industrial Economics at the University of Nottingham writes in today’s Mail, the mood at Number 10 is extremely pessimistic because our leaders have become infected by their own “scaremongering propaganda”.
Ministers told us that the vaccines were the route to freedom because they would protect the public and break the link between infections and hospitalisations. That has proved to be the reality.
Indeed, the contrast between the grim peak of the second wave and the vastly improved situation today is stark, despite the advent of new variants.
It is true that the number of cases is currently increasing – up from a low point at the end of April of about 19 positive tests per 100,000 people to 44 per 100,000 now – but the impact of the rise has been nothing like as devastating as previously.
NHS data shows that hospital admissions have risen somewhat from a low of 74 per day to the current average of 103 per day, yet at the peak in January we saw over 4,000 admissions on a single day.
There is even better news when it comes to the number of patients admitted to hospital in the last seven days. The latest figure of 869 is 0.6% down on the previous seven-day period, and nothing like the savage January peak of 34,336.
It is the same story with death rates, which are currently averaging 5.7 per day, up from a low of 4.3 per day, but that compares to a January peak of no fewer than 1,245 deaths on a single day…
Ignoring such hard data, some of the advocates of delay like to bolster their argument by citing the modelling done by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), which sets out some pessimistic scenarios in the event of lockdown’s demise.
But there are two serious problems with this approach. First, SAGE’s record on modelling throughout the pandemic has been poor and overly negative. Second, it was the SAGE models themselves which formed the basis of the Government’s roadmap.
Even against the backdrop of the bleakest SAGE scenario, ministers initially maintained that the reopening on June 21st should proceed.
In fact, fully aware of the gloomiest SAGE projections, Boris Johnson explicitly stated on April 13th that “at the moment I cannot see any reason to change the roadmap”.
Given that the picture has turned out to be much healthier than anything SAGE projected, there would be no logic at all behind any delay. In their two scenarios closest to the Government’s roadmap, SAGE’s models indicated that there could be between 6,100 and 10,200 hospital patients by early June with more increases to come.
In fact, the present total of just 879 is only 14% of SAGE’s lower projection. So we are currently in a much better position than the Government envisaged…
At times it seems as if the Government has developed a bunker mentality, infected by its own scaremongering propaganda and SAGE’s shroud-waving.
But it is time to stop hiding behind the flawed models and fearful messages, embrace openness and get the country moving again without a delay. The real catastrophe would be a timid surrender to the voices of hesitancy and anxiety.