Majority of Brits “Worried” About Ending of Lockdown Restrictions, According to New Survey

Recent reports on the level of fear over Covid in Britain significantly understate how anxious people feel about returning to life as normal, according to new polling. Over 60% of respondents in a new poll for the Independent say they are worried about the ending of social distancing and mask-wearing. This is far higher than the level reported in recent polling from Ipsos MORI (12% and 21% said they were “not looking forward” to abandoning social distancing and giving up face masks respectively). Perhaps far more are suffering from “Covid Anxiety Syndrome” than we previously thought. The Independent has more.

A large majority of Britons are “worried” about Boris Johnson’s plan to remove all remaining coronavirus rules this month…

Some 65% of people said they are worried about scrapping the “one metre plus” rule, which requires venues to use screens, or seat people facing away from each other, and prevents ordering at bars with table service required instead.

There is similar concern about removing the need to wear masks in many settings (63%) and about allowing unlimited numbers into concerts, theatres and sports stadiums (60%).

Reopening nightclubs alarms 58% of people who responded to pollsters Savanta ComRes, with 49% nervous about scrapping limits on the size of weddings and funerals…

The poll of 2,180 people conducted between May 28th and 30th revealed the Government does not have majority backing for lifting all restrictions, with only 45% in favour and 42% against.

Crucially, when confronted with specific curbs to be removed, a much smaller minority is “not worried” about ending social distancing (33%), mask-wearing (35%) and attendance limits at events (37%).

The greatest public concern centres on lifting all foreign travel restrictions – with 69% of people fearful.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Shame on those peddling fear,” says Co-Founder of Time for Recovery Alan Miller.

A Quarter of Britain’s Pubs and Restaurants Have Yet to Reopen

Despite the recent easing of restrictions for both outdoor and indoor hospitality, new research shows that almost a quarter of Britain’s licensed premises have yet to reopen. The partial reopening of the sector has been largely hampered by the continuation of social distancing guidelines. Nearly 7.5% of Britain’s pre-lockdown total of pubs and restaurants have already closed for good. The Caterer has more.

23.7% of Britain’s… licensed premises have yet to reopen despite the return of inside service, new Market Recovery Monitor research from CGA and AlixPartners reveals.

The snapshot data found just under 25,000 venues are still shut, with similar trading numbers in England (76.6%) and Scotland (77.4%), but a notably slower return in Wales (69.6%).

The Market Recovery Monitor showed slightly more pubs have reopened than restaurants. Around nine in 10 high street pubs (92.9%), food pubs (91.8%) and community pubs (89.6%) are back trading, alongside 89.2% of casual dining and other restaurants.

However, social distancing and restrictions in place still make it unviable for swathes of venues to open, and 45.2% of Britain’s sports and social clubs remain closed, alongside 50.9% of large venues and 27% of bars. 

More than 8,500 premises… have already closed for good.

Karl Chessell, CGA’s Director for Hospitality Operators and Food, EMEA, said: “The return of large parts of hospitality for indoor service was a landmark moment for consumers and businesses alike, but it is alarming to see that so many venues have still not been able to welcome guests. Many will have decided that restrictions and space constraints make opening unviable, while some sectors like late-night bars and nightclubs are still completely off limits.

“It will be an anxious wait to see how many of the venues that are holding on until the final easing of restrictions will be able to make it through. Sustained support is clearly going to be needed to save thousands of vulnerable businesses and jobs.”

The continued presence of a fear of Covid (“Covid Anxiety Syndrome“, as it has been labelled) means many people have struggled with returning to normal life. This will no doubt have created further difficulties for publicans and restaurateur hoping to maximise sales after many months of forced closure. Recent polling from Ipsos MORI shows that 14% of British adults aren’t looking forward to having dinner in a restaurant with friends and 18% aren’t looking forward to going to the pub.

The Caterer report is worth reading in full.

“Covid Anxiety Syndrome” Preventing People from Returning to Normal Life, Says New Report

Fear whipped up over Covid by the Government and the media has resulted in millions of Brits struggling to return to normal life, according to a report which will warn that people are locking themselves down from within. Set to be published next month, the report identifies “Covid Anxiety Syndrome” as a condition which burdens many with a fear of public places and a need to maintain compulsive hygiene habits. Lucy Johnston in the Sunday Express has more.

Up to one in five is believed to have developed a “compulsive and disproportionate” fear of Covid, which would likely stay in place even if the virus disappeared completely. Warnings about the dangers of Covid have heightened the problem, and mixed messages about the level of danger have made it worse, said Marcantonio Spada, a Professor of Addictive Behaviours and Mental Health at London’s South Bank University, who co-authored the report.

He said: “Our research suggests a number of people may not be able to return to normality even if the pandemic disappeared altogether. Worrying, checking others for symptoms, and avoidance have, over the months, gradually cemented a state of fear about the virus. Life has become restricted, and many people are experiencing a ‘psychological lockdown’ even if we are coming out of the physical one.”

The recently identified condition – Covid Anxiety Syndrome – is characterised by fear of public places, compulsive hygiene habits, worrying about the virus and frequent symptom checking. 

The findings from the study, which was undertaken in March and April 2021, showed 46% of people feared returning to public transport, 44% feared touching things, while 35% were checking their family members and loved ones for signs of Covid on a regular basis.

Professor Spada and co-author Ana Nikčević, Professor of Psychology at Kingston University, compared these recent findings to those they had collected in May 2020. They found the patterns to be broadly unchanged.

Overall one in five was “struggling with marked levels of maladaptive behaviour” related to the syndrome. Vaccination status – with around 35% of respondents being vaccinated – and a previous diagnosis of mental health condition did not appear to play a role in the severity of the syndrome which affects people from all professions and educational backgrounds.

Those affected are likely to represent the tip of an iceberg with many others suffering less severe anxiety related to fear of the virus making them feel threatened or afraid of returning to normal.

Professor Spada and his colleague are analysing a sample of 6,000 adults across China, Europe and the U.S. in collaboration with researchers from Imperial College to assess the global prevalence and impact of the syndrome. Results will be published by the summer, but preliminary indications show the syndrome is present across all countries surveyed to varying degrees.

Professor Spada said: “Our research suggests many people may struggle or may not return to normal even if the pandemic disappeared altogether.

“Avoidance locks you into fear. People are now locked down within despite the fall in infection rates and vaccine rollout. It appears that the syndrome affects people from all professions and educational levels.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: New polling from Ipsos MORI suggests it may be more than 20% of the population that’s suffering from Covid Anxiety Syndrome. It shows that 28% of British adults aren’t looking forward to “Greeting people with handshake/hug/kiss”, 27% aren’t looking forward to “going to large public gatherings such as sport of music events” and 24% aren’t looking forward to “Going to parties (such as weddings or birthday parties)”.

Why Is Boris Dragging His Feet Over Reopening Britain?

There follows the text of an article by Joseph C. Sternberg that appeared in the Wall Street Journal yesterday on why Boris is dragging his feet over reopening Britain in spite of the success of our vaccine rollout. We think it’s so good we are reproducing it in full.

The UK has delivered at least one dose of Covid vaccine to more than 47% of its total population. This means that well over half of all adults, and the vast majority of the most vulnerable elderly, have received a sufficient level of inoculation to reduce serious illness, death, and probably transmission dramatically for the several months it will take to deliver second doses. Rates of hospitalisation and fatality tumble by the day.

So why on earth is Boris Johnson slow-rolling the country’s emergence from lockdown?

The exit plan from the current-third-lockdown began March 8th, when schools reopened, and won’t be complete until late June. Sorry, make that “until late June at the earliest”, appending Mr Johnson’s favourite three words. Nonessential retail, beer gardens and gyms won’t reopen until next week, restaurants not until May, and no one can say when draconian restrictions on international travel will be eased.

Precisely because the medical news in Britain is so cheerful, its difficulties escaping lockdown serve as a cautionary tale for everyone else. The task, it would appear, no longer is to suppress the virus or meter hospital demand or save lives or anything health-related. The task is to manage the dangerous interactions between a fearful political class and an overweening medical class.

That’s the vice in which Britain now finds itself. As fearful politicians go, few are more so than Mr Johnson. Yes, that Mr Johnson. Americans who remember his buccaneering spirit surrounding Brexit might be surprised at how his encounter with Covid – as a political leader and as a patient this time last year – has changed him.

The personal angle is best left to the readers’ own guesses, but the political transformation is easy enough to understand. Mr Johnson was elected in December 2019 with an enormous mandate to get Brexit done, and for not much of anything else. The pandemic daily exposes the extent to which a coalition among libertarian, Christian-democratic and working-class Conservatives is in danger of fracturing whenever anything other than Brexit is on the table. At the moment the civil libertarians are the dissenters, but the easing of lockdown will merely raise new policy questions over which other bits of his party can rebel.

Mr Johnson has found the only thing that can keep these cats in a vaguely herded state is success. Well, yes. In politics, nothing succeeds like success. But adopting that as a governing strategy leaves little scope for occasional fumbles along the way.

Before the vaccination programme succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest imagination, Mr Johnson’s Government was under near-mortal threat from its perceived failure to contain the pandemic’s winter wave with more-aggressive lockdowns in the autumn. Mr Johnson can’t afford to be bold in reopening for fear that some unforeseen error, or an unpredictable spike in infections, or some other disaster will lead to a political; collapse of some sort.

Which brings us to the other jaw of the vice: an overweening public-health class.

“Covert Tactics” Employed By the State to Keep Us Scared… We’ve Seen This Before

Frederick Forsyth has written a stinging letter – published in Tuesday’s Telegraph – linking the scare tactics employed to frighten East Berliners into supporting the Berlin Wall to those employed by the British Government to ensure compliance with Covid regulations. His letter is written in response to an article published by the Telegraph last week on the “covert tactics” used by the Government to scare the public into staying at home.

Congratulations to the Telegraph and Gordon Rayner for revealing that the campaign of mass fear that reduced a once brave nation to trembling terror was deliberately organised to secure obedience to the policy of lockdown.

I have only once before seen anything like it. This was when I was posted to East Germany in 1962. Such a brainwashing tactic was employed to frighten East Berliners into believing that the Berlin Wall was a defensive measure to protect them from tiny West Berlin, and that the Stasi was their guardian. The wall was of course an instrument of enslavement.

I never thought that the government of a country whose uniform I once wore with such pride would sink so low. Those responsible should be identified without delay and ousted from all office over us.

Frederick Forsyth
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

In the Telegraph article published last week, a retired NHS consultant clinical psychologist is quoted as saying that “there is growing concern within my field about using fear and shame as a driver of behaviour change”.

Gary Sidley… said: “It’s as if there is a little industry around pandemic management and it excludes alternative voices.” …

Mr Sidley was so concerned that he and 46 colleagues wrote to the British Psychological Society (BPS) raising “concerns about the activities of Government-employed psychologists … in their mission to gain the public’s mass compliance with the ongoing coronavirus restrictions”.

The letter added: “Our view is that the use of covert psychological strategies – that operate below the level of people’s awareness – to ‘nudge’ citizens to conform to a contentious and unprecedented public health policy raises profound ethical questions.”

The Telegraph has learnt that the BPS’s ethics committee will discuss the matter at its next meeting on June 21st – coincidentally the same day all lockdown restrictions are due to end.

Worth reading in full.

New Government Campaign Will Urge People – Including Vaccinated – Not to Hug

The Government is planning a new social media poster campaign that will urge people – including those who have been vaccinated against Covid – not to hug. A source has said that the messaging will say that if you “hug your grandchildren there is a chance you are going to infect people you love”. The Telegraph has the story.

Vaccinated Britons will be urged not to hug in a new Government campaign that comes amid fears people are more likely to ignore social distancing rules once they have been jabbed.

The Cabinet Office is preparing a social media poster campaign that will call on people who have been inoculated against Covid to abide by the rules as they are relaxed in order to allow more social contact.

“The messaging will be aimed at people who have been vaccinated to stop them going off-piste and ignoring the regulations, and particularly with the elderly who have had two jabs,” said a senior source.

“It will be along the lines that it is great that you have been vaccinated, but if you are going to visit your family and hug your grandchildren there is a chance you are going to infect people you love.”

A similar campaign has been run during lockdown, in which older vaccinated people were urged to stay at home to save lives. 

The posters, featuring older Britons, warned that they could still transmit the virus even after having a jab. “There is still a risk you could spread coronavirus, even after you have been vaccinated,” they said.

The Government fears that people who have received the vaccine believe they are safe from Covid.

It follows research by the ONS which found that nearly half of all older people who were vaccinated against Covid in England were breaking lockdown rules.

Researchers found that compliance with coronavirus restrictions started to wane after the initial injection, with 41% of respondents reporting that they had broken the rules by meeting up with someone indoors.

Perhaps Bob Moran’s cartoons can act as an antidote to this campaign!

The Telegraph’s report is worth reading in full.

Climate of “Fear” Prevents Experts From Questioning the Handling of Covid


We’re reproducing an article by Lucy Johnston for the Express on the “climate of fear” that is preventing experts from speaking out against the Government’s handling of Covid because it is hard to read on the newspaper’s website. And it’s a must-read.

A climate of fear is preventing experts from questioning the handling of the pandemic, with reputations smeared, jobs lost and even families threatened.

Much abuse has come from within academic or professional circles, with one professor saying debate was becoming impossible because “we are not talking to each other properly. We are being thrown into confrontational positions”. Many leading experts have withdrawn from the debate after having reputations smeared, jobs lost and even families threatened for raising questions about pandemic policy. This month alone has seen one leading medic, working to protect vulnerable children, forced to abandon a project to safeguard youngsters after their name was sullied when they questioned the Government approach.

Another expert has been sidelined from a vital role on a Government advisory group, while senior NHS staff have been threatened with disciplinary measures for questioning the Government approach online or in the media.

Senior academics say they have feared losing vital funding, warned not to speak out with the threat of disciplinary action or deemed “outliers” for their views on lockdown.

At least two scientists have been subjected to public abuse by scientific colleagues who disagreed with their academic view.

One critic posted a grotesque image superimposed on a professor after he disagreed with his view. Other posts by scientists have branded colleagues “charlatans” and “snake oil merchants”.

A prominent professor accused a fellow academic of “deliberately subverting public health” on a Twitter post after disagreeing with her views on managing the pandemic.

In another case a Government scientific advisor called a university boss to try to stop one of its professors from criticising Government policy.

Retired Supreme Court Lord Sumption told a podcast this week that he was a reluctant figurehead for questioning lockdown – but felt obliged because of the way critics had been treated.

He said scientists and politicians had been”subjected to an extraordinarily unpleasant campaign of personal abuse”. He added:

I know a lot of people that would prefer not to put their head above the parapet. From the very moment I started to make these points I began to get emails from politicians who agreed with what I had to say but that they themselves didn’t dare to speak out. That I think is a very serious state of affairs.

He added that he knew of one scientist whose family had also been targeted: “People ought to be entitled to voice their differences of opinion.”

Urgent Lung Cancer Referrals Fall by a Third

The “stay at home” message is behind a major fall in urgent lung cancer referrals, according to Cancer Research UK’s GP adviser. Lung cancer is the deadliest type and only 3% of sufferers survive for five years or more if diagnosed at the latest stage. People with symptoms are now being urged to contact their GP, but for many, it is already too late. The Telegraph has the story.

Urgent lung cancer referrals have fallen by a third, as a consultant blames the “stay at home” message.

Some 20,300 fewer people were referred for treatment in England between March 2020 and January 2021 compared with the previous year, according to an analysis by Cancer Research UK. This is a 34% fall in patients.

The charity has now warned that multiple lockdowns have resulted in damaging delays in life-saving treatment, as people are either ignoring symptoms altogether or putting off seeking help in order to comply with Covid rules.

Dr Neil Smith, Cancer Research UK’s GP adviser, said: “It’s incredibly worrying that fewer lung cancer patients have started treatment since the beginning of the pandemic.

“While initial advice to stay at home and isolate if people had a new, continuous cough, could mean some people understandably delayed seeking help, we know delays to potentially life-saving treatment may mean lung cancer could progress.

“Covid has created a perfect storm of problems, but the tide is turning as cases drop and vaccines are rolled out.” …

Lung cancer is the most deadly type but if it is diagnosed early when it is more treatable 57% of people will survive for five years or more. This compares with 3% of people diagnosed at the latest stage.

Some of the main symptoms include a cough which doesn’t go away after two or three weeks, coughing up blood, persistent breathlessness, loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss.

The Government’s Shameful Use of Psychological Techniques to Terrify People

by Dr James Moreton Wakeley

Fear is our most powerful emotion. It triggers our deepest animal instincts and makes us act in irrational ways. We find ourselves fighting, fleeing, or hiding. We look only to our own safety, forget how to think, and become heedless of anything or anyone else. Fear is the ultimate master of the mind. Employing it as a form of influence, however softly, however subliminally, can profoundly change behaviour and cause lasting mental trauma. Enemies do it in times of war to undermine their foe’s morale and will to resist. It is the tactic used by totalitarian regimes throughout history to compel obedience.

And it is the tactic that the British government, for the past year, has consciously employed to turn us into the compliant subjects of lockdown.

Using such behavioural science to ‘nudge’ us into acting in certain ways is not new. As conceived by the Cameron government, harnessing ‘nudge theory’ to encourage people ‘to make better choices for themselves’ without resorting to the compulsion of law is not necessarily malign. Yet the ways in which behavioural science has been employed over the course of the past year demonstrates the deep truth of the old aphorism that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) is the sub-committee of SAGE tasked with providing advice to the Government on how best to encourage obedience to its lockdown measures. In a meeting held on March 22nd 2020, it identified a number of psychological techniques for the Government to employ that mark a transition from the traditional tendency of public information campaigns to supply clear facts – expecting a rational reaction to them – to the use of subliminal manipulation. Alleging that a “substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened”, the meeting concluded that “the perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging”. Appendix B to the meeting’s minutes lists a raft of specific methods to foster lockdown compliance, ranging from generating a sense of social approval for the Government’s measures, to using the media to promote a sense of personal threat and a responsibility for collective welfare.

Let us dwell on the implications of those words. They advocate a personalisation of risk – regardless of the fact that Covid is an extremely discriminatory disease, threatening the elderly above all – achieved through stoking a sense of threat by targeting the emotions. They therefore call for nothing short of a twisting of the truth, for conscious exaggeration, and for a rejection of fact-based argument. We have seen this willingness to lie in false claims about the sorts of people likely to be infected with Covid, the exaggeration in the “act like you’ve got it” line, and the rejection of fact-based argument in the tendency of the Government to put in place restrictions because they send a particular signal, rather than because they are scientifically justified. SPI-B’s March meeting wrote the manifesto of a campaign of fear, a campaign that has been consistently shaped by the methodology of behavioural science ever since.

The reach of this campaign has been unprecedented. In the wake of the announcement of the first lockdown, the Government became the largest advertiser in the country. It spent £184 million of taxpayers’ money in 2020 alone, launching visually-shocking poster campaigns alongside radio and television advertisements. The daily Downing Street briefings have also served to expose the British people to a daily threnody of doom, in which uncontextualised statistics and the recitation of messages of threat have served to amplify the effort to make the public feel afraid.

The Government is not the only prophet of fear. One of the most noticeable features of the Downing Street briefings has been the abject failure of journalists to interrogate the Government or its scientific advisers. Their ‘questions’ often seem to give ministers the chance to reiterate their call to abide by the lockdown measures rather than querying the need for them, or presenting ministers and state scientists with evidence that undermines their assessment of the situation. This wholly unusual degree of press subservience is not a coincidence.

Ofcom, the body responsible for setting broadcast standards, has all but compelled broadcasters to become conspirators in the campaign of fear. In guidance released on May 26th 2020, it asked broadcasters to “take particular care” when discussing “statements that seek to question or undermine the advice of public health bodies on the Coronavirus, or otherwise undermine people’s trust in the advice of mainstream sources of information about the disease”. Ofcom may have stated that it does not advocate the banning of divergent views from the airways, but, in its threat to take action against broadcasters who stray from the script, the risks to broadcast journalists and editors were nonetheless clear. In its rulings against broadcasters that have given voice to views that the body deemed potentially causative of “public harm”, it is apparent that Ofcom has become willing to expand its previous understanding of the concept, thereby creating a further disincentive against broadcasting Covid heterodoxy.

These guidelines, together with the tendency of the political and media class to groupthink, have created a culture in which too many journalists accept the Government’s assertions as fact. It has led to lazy assumptions about the efficacy of lockdown as a policy, evident recently, for instance, in the belief of a member of the Telegraph‘s Global Health Security team that the new lockdown in the Czech Republic is responsible for a fall in cases that began a week before it was actually announced. More significantly, the media’s magnification of the Government’s messaging, together with dramatically morbid footage and the selective use of exceptional cases of Covid among the young – not to mention death data presented with misleading historical comparisons – has amounted to an additional offensive in the campaign of fear that has had profound and troubling implications.

These implications seem to have been sensed, at least to an extent, by the policy’s architects in SPI-B. When suggesting the use of the media “to increase the sense of personal threat”, SPI-B notes that there could be “negative spill-over effects”. The committee is silent on what these effects could be. Other psychologists and behavioural scientists could easily have told them.

Fear, stimulated by the perception of threat, causes an alarm reaction in the part of the brain that controls the emotions, the amygdala. This reaction shuts down the neural pathway to our prefrontal cortex – responsible for rational reasoning – meaning that we act suddenly and intensively, without thinking things through. It makes evolutionary sense. It is far better to respond to a potential threat by running away, or shooting first, than it is to engage in a period of leisurely, dispassionate reflection on the actual nature of that threat.

Problems, however, are caused when the amygdala is over-stimulated. It evolved to cope with sudden moments of extreme danger, not with a psychological campaign of previously unknown reach and technological sophistication, dedicated to exacerbating actual risk and spreading fear. When emotion keeps overriding reason, the brain is knocked off balance. Irrational and ultimately self-harming behaviour becomes a habit increasingly harder to kick. The perception of risk spreads, contaminating responses to scenarios beyond the alleged actual danger. We become neurotic, unreasonable, and over-reactive.

This can cause panic attacks, depression and anxiety, even post-traumatic stress disorder. It can inculcate new phobias or obsessive, compulsive behaviour. In short, an over-exposure to fear damages who we are, leading to deleterious consequences for mental health and everything that can mean for our relationships, careers, and basic zest for life. The effects of fear on the brain are exacerbated when our usual pattern of life is disturbed and we are forced into social isolation, a scenario well known to increase the risk of mortality alongside damaging mental health in and of itself. Children are most vulnerable to these effects. Over-exposure to fear in the early years can inhibit brain development and cause lasting emotional trauma.

The mind is not alone in suffering harm. There is a close link between mental health and physical health. Beyond the unfortunate tendency of people suffering from depression to avoid looking after themselves – or those too afraid to venture out into a world they have been told is riddled with a deadly plague to get help – over-exposure to fear can cause the body to neglect functions like immune responses and cell generation. This can cause premature ageing, cardiovascular problems, and can even affect fertility. Mental anxiety also increases gastrointestinal malfunction. Being told to “act like you have the virus”, moreover, can even prompt a “perverse kind of reverse placebo effect”, in the words of behavioural scientist Patrick Fagan, that stimulates the symptoms of disease.

It is unsurprising, therefore, to learn that manufacturing and stoking fear to influence behaviour is recognised as deeply unethical. The Covid campaign of fear flies in the face of the British Psychological Society’s Code of Ethics and Conduct, which is based in part on the values of respecting the patient and being honest with them. In January, 47 health professionals wrote to the British Psychological Society to express their concern at the way in which the Government has manipulated behavioural science to inculcate lockdown compliance. Other scientists and psychologists have written stinging polemics against the Government’s approach, grounded in the most cutting-edge research on the mind.

There is, however, tragically, now ample evidence of the impact of the campaign of fear that shows the concerns aren’t merely theoretical. The campaign of fear has caused nothing short of a wholly-avoidable physical and mental health crisis. In the first lockdown, over 6,000 people died at home from non-Covid diseases, being too scared to go to hospital. Visits to Accident & Emergency departments collapsed. Over 44,000 fewer people started cancer treatment than in the previous year, with 4.4 million fewer diagnostic tests being carried out: figures that cancer specialists like Professor Karol Sikora have linked to undue fear.

Demand for mental health support has sky-rocketed. An additional 27,000 adults sought support last year and it is now understood that one in six of 5-16 year olds have a mental health condition. The continuing and wholly unjustified face mask mandate in schools is likely to compound this, as well as leading to additional physical ailments. Overall, the Centre for Mental Health has warned that 20% of all adults and 15% of all children will need help dealing with conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder over the coming years.

Some truly shocking stories are to be found within statistics such as these. One grandmother from Gloucestershire took her own life, afraid that the minor cold she had contracted was Covid and fearful that she would give it to her family. I am sure that many of us have our own personal stories of friends and family who have become ever more anxious towards the world outside, or of once confident, go-getting colleagues for whom the world is now a much more forbidding place.

The campaign of fear must end now. This week, Recovery – a new movement founded to bring balance and reason to the lockdown debate – is launching a new campaign to bring greater attention to the Government’s deliberate use of fear and the campaign’s disastrous consequences. The British public deserve to know how dishonestly and abusively the Government has behaved. Those too scared to get treatment for conditions other than Covid, or scarred by a year of lockdown, need a voice. Once more people know how they have been manipulated, a more rational response to dealing with Covid may yet become possible, with more ears open to learning about the costs of lockdown and how there are other, better ways to deal with a pandemic.

As someone who stumbled across Recovery when trying to find ways to help end lockdown, I urge you to support the campaign. Please donate, share their message as widely as possible, and write to your Member of Parliament to get them to act now.

Let us be in no doubt about what the past year has seen. The Government has knowingly used fear to manipulate its people into behaving in a way it deems good for them. It is a policy suggested by advisers who seemed to have known what this could do to the brain, and who were also surely aware of the ethical questions such a policy raised. Assisted by a media that has been shaped into compliance, half-truths, exaggeration, and even lies have been deliberately employed to foster greater levels of obedience. This has had a deleterious impact on mental and physical health.

Of all of the tragedies of the past year, this has been the most avoidable. It asks questions not just of the ability of the state to deal with the pandemic in a measured, rational way, but also of the ethics of those responsible for it.

James Moreton Wakeley is a former parliamentary researcher with a PhD in History from Oxford.