Despite talking of the U.K.’s long, slow lockdown easing as “irreversible”, the Prime Minister today told reporters that an anticipated resurgence of Covid, flu and other diseases means there may be a “rough winter” ahead. Noting that hospitalisations and ICU numbers are up around 30%, Boris Johnson said:
You can never exclude the possibility that there will be some new disease, some new horror we haven’t budgeted for or accounted for… but I think it’s looking good for July 19th to be that terminus point. Things like flu may come back this winter, we may have a rough winter for all sorts of reasons – but that is all the more reason to reduce Covid cases now, give the NHS the breathing space it needs now.
His comments suggest that the reason for the hugely costly decision to defer ‘freedom day’ for a month was to “reduce Covid cases” and “give the NHS the breathing space it needs”. That raises the alarming possibility that restrictions might be re-imposed whenever some pessimistic, unverified modelling suggests the NHS might come ‘under pressure’ during the winter – despite the fact that the NHS comes ‘under pressure’ almost every winter.
There are many criticisms that could be made of this, including that there is no real-world evidence that lockdowns make any significant impact on the course of a COVID-19 epidemic, and that it shows a very narrow and warped sense of priorities when it comes to managing public affairs and public health.
But besides that, even on its own terms it makes no sense to “give the NHS breathing space” by continuing or re-imposing restrictions. Since the main reason experts are so worried about flu this year is they are concerned that lockdowns and social distancing have successfully suppressed flu and other pathogens and left people unexposed to them and thus more vulnerable. In addition to this, Matt Hancock warned last week that the backlog in the NHS of people in need of elective procedures such as hip, knee and eye operations is now estimated to be as high as 12.2 million, resulting in the NHS facing the “biggest pressure in its history”.
But where is this pressure coming from? By the Government’s own admission, the backlog is caused by people staying away from the health service. So how can re-imposing restrictions and stoking panic be the solution to pressure caused by the very restrictions and panic that led people to avoid seeking medical treatment? The only way to break out of this vicious circle is to accept that lockdowns cause more problems than they solve.
Yet with the latest delay, the Government shows no sign of kicking the bad lockdown habit it has picked up in the last 15 months. No wonder even Cabinet Minsters are starting to complain they’re not being listened to.
Increasingly it seems that we are living under a SAGE dictatorship, where those with the real power are rewarded with billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to hand out to their friends in industry and academia – friends whose reputation they may have helped protect by covering up their role in creating the virus in the first place.