Herd the good news? According to modelling by University College London, so many people
in Britain have now been vaccinated against (or recovered from) Covid-19, that by Monday
we are likely to reach the threshold for collective immunity.
The herd seems anyway to have collectively developed a shrewd idea of this; it’s what
prompted thousands of revellers to trample down to Cardiff Bay on Good Friday to have a
good rave-up in front of an appalled Senedd.
Likewise, the delightful individuals attacking police stations in the #KillTheBill demos (by
which hashtag it might be fair to suspect they don’t just mean a Bill in Parliament, but the
Old variety) seem to have sussed out that there’s no point staying at home or socially
distancing. Indeed, it’s hard to see how you could smack coppers over the head with a stick
if you did.
Like last year’s #BLM marchers, protestors laying into the filth in Bristol have a special form
of socialist immunity from Covid-19, which means they aren’t subject to censure in the
same way as selfish scum who go to the beach, walk up a hill, or disgracefully visit their
second home in the country. Even so, they are part of what looks like a widespread
sentiment that people are getting fed up with lockdowns, and are looking forward to getting
their freedom back.
This makes it troubling that, instead of celebrating, the UK and devolved Governments seem
trapped in the same precautionary mindset that has locked the country in for over a year.
Emergency measures introduced to take the pressure off the NHS for a few weeks last
spring are dragging out until this summer, even though everyone deemed to be at high risk
from Covid has already been vaccinated.
Their overcaution is prompted, in part, by some more modelling from Professor Niall
Ferguson’s team of Chicken Littles at Imperial College. According to their projections, a
‘pessimistic but plausible’ scenario sees the Covid surging back in a summer third wave that
will be as bad as the epidemic’s January peak.
Professor Ferguson has made a name for himself over the last year by predicting inchoate
doomsday scenarios with a regularity that Branch Davidians would find implausible. This
latest one is apparently predicated –against all evidence– on the roll-out of safe and
effective vaccines having no effect whatsoever on the numbers of people who end up dead
or in hospital.
It overlooks the behaviour of the virus across all of Europe last summer, when people were
getting their knickers in a twist the moment infection rates rose above 20 per 100,000. It
completely ignores the demonstrable effects of herd immunity on hospitalisations and
deaths in countries and territories (like Israel and Gibraltar) where people have had the jab
and it’s working.
The model, in short, is garbage; just like Ferguson’s previous scaremongering which
predicted half a million dead in the first wave.
Ferguson isn’t someone you’d have on your team in a game of pin the tail on the donkey.
With his record of statistical accuracy, you wouldn’t put him in charge of a high street
branch of Paddy Power. You certainly wouldn’t want him delivering the shipping forecast, or
no vessel would ever leave port. If Imperial College insured your car, it would cost you a
million quid a year.
Lockdowns were never necessary. They weren’t part of the Government’s pandemic
planning. If a totalitarian commie dictatorship hadn’t caught the Covid first and reacted to
this inconvenience by letting people drop dead behind their own welded doors, we
wouldn’t have had its illiberal and destructive model to follow.
The difference in health outcomes between countries that did and didn’t lock down doesn’t
even begin to justify the economic and social harm that the policy has caused. And the real
problem about shutting people in their homes as a response to Covid is in assessing when, if
ever, it is ‘safe’ to let them out again.
People now seem ready for it, but the Government knows that public opinion is fickle, and
that lockdowns have been surprisingly popular. Project fear was horribly effective in making
people to whom Covid poses minimal risk believe it to be somewhat more deadly than
Voters liked the idea that the Government was keeping them ‘safe’, even if their safety was
bought at an unconscionable price in jobs, debt, educational outcomes and mental and
physical health. The naïve superstition persists that the state can do anything, and there is
nothing that can’t be paid for with another few dozen zeroes of magic money added to the
Boris Johnson, Mark Drakeford and any voters who still believe this all need to snap out of
it. Herd immunity is probably here, and we are as safe now as we will ever be.
That doesn’t, of course, mean that Covid has gone away. It never will. Chris Whitty (who has
talked sense throughout the pandemic) made it clear that Covid-19, in one form or another,
will be a permanent fixture in the lurgy calendar, much as flu always has been. It will kill
quite a lot of elderly and unwell people every year and we will barely notice. Talk of its
complete eradication is moonshine; even the biggest idiots in the Labour Party have
stopped banging on about #ZeroCovid.
Lockdowns have gone on too long and done far too much damage. Any justification that
existed for using such illiberal and excessive measures to deal with Covid-19 has long
passed. Instead of pandering to people’s fears, it’s time to embrace freedom.