In Some Countries, Lockdowns May Be the "New Normal"
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Like many mainstream economists who make predictions that inform and shape government policy, medical experts make predictions which can determine how a government addresses a perceived problem. A good example here is Professor Neil Ferguson, who led the flawed Imperial College covid-19 study which played a major role in the lockdowns implemented throughout Europe, and even in the US and Canada.
The model used by Imperial offered many predications, including the worst-case scenario of five hundred thousand deaths in the UK alone by October 2020 should no measures be implemented. The reported and likely inflated figure by late October 2020 in the UK was approximately forty-four thousand deaths following a seven-week lockdown lasting from late March to May. The UK returned to lockdown in November 2020, and again in January this year.
As pointed out by statistician Kevin D. Dayaratna, “The Imperial College code provides different answers using the same inputs. In particular, the same assumptions can provide results that differ by 80,000 deaths over a span of 80 days.” Indeed, the unreliability of the model was highlighted by many experts and publications, including a study featured in Nature. Professor Toomas Timpka concluded separately, “[T]here is too great a distance between the adaptation to reality in the models and the firm recommendations that were issued. As planners of healthcare resources, we have no use for over-confident recommendations based on such shaky data.”
New strains of coronavirus continue to emerge, and future pandemics stemming from new viruses are a real possibility, if not inevitable. According to experts, there are 1.7 million “undiscovered” viruses in mammals and birds, 827,000 of which could infect humans. Should another problematic strain of covid-19 occur, or should a completely new virus emerge, similar predictions based on questionable models could lead to yet more overreaction and the implementation of severe restrictions on the lives of citizens without sufficient scientific evidence to back such measures (not to mention the important moral questions around them).
Public Fear and the Suppression of Dissenting Voices
With such flawed studies and claims regularly echoed by politicians and media outlets—and with, of course, covid-19 posing a genuine threat to a small percentage of populations—it is understandable that the public can be scared into submission. Propaganda is propaganda, whether based on truth, lies, or a mixture of both. Since early 2020, in many European countries and some US states, we’ve seen that this social subservience has happened on a massive scale, and without much resistance.
To be sure, there still hasn’t been significant pushback by the public in many countries, despite a large number of medical experts speaking out against lockdowns. And it is not merely because of the global collateral damage these measures cause that these individuals have raised their voices against them, but also due to the fact that numerous studies have shown that there is no solid scientific evidence to support the claim that lockdowns significantly slow the spread of covid-19 when compared with less restrictive measures. One of these studies is a peer-reviewed paper published by the European Journal of Clinical Investigation (EJCI) on January 5, 2021, which concludes, “[W]hile small benefits cannot be excluded, we do not find significant benefits on case growth of more restrictive NPIs [nonpharmaceutical interventions] (lockdowns). Similar reductions in case growth may be achievable with less‐restrictive interventions (social distancing, etc.).”
The collateral damage from lockdowns includes 82–132 million more people with food insecurity globally, as many as 100 million more people plunged into poverty, and infectious disease deaths from interrupted services, including from HIV, TB, and malaria. And in high-income countries deaths and despair will also occur from delayed and interrupted healthcare, business closures, unemployment, loneliness, deteriorating mental health, opioid abuse, domestic abuse, alcohol abuse, and more.
Yet in most cases, dissenting voices have seemingly been dismissed or ignored (e.g., the Great Barrington Declaration, the above EJCI study). They have rarely been invited to speak on mainstream media—especially public broadcasters—and some have even been censored online. With such suppression of information in the mainstream, perhaps it is not so surprising that a high percentage of the public polled in some countries supports excessive restrictions.
Draconian Measures since 2020
While covid-19 restrictions in the United States have varied—with California’s seemingly being the most severe—in Europe things have been different. Ireland, for example, is as of late February 2021 in its third severe lockdown since the first one back in March 2020. The current level-5 lockdown has been in place since late December, restricting Irish citizens to a five-kilometer travel limit, prohibiting guests on their private or rented property, forcing long-term closure of “nonessential” businesses. Fines and jail time for people who break the rules. According to The Journal, in early January several arrests were made, including the apprehension of a woman who was found in breach of travel restrictions without having a “reasonable” excuse and who was a nonresident at another property. Her punishment: four months’ imprisonment.
NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team) is the public body advising the government, led by Dr. Tony Holohan. It is now advising that lockdown rules remain in place until ordinary hospital waiting lists fall. Mr. Holohan’s deputy, Dr. Ronan Glynn, said on February 16 that “people must avoid crowded areas for the next six months at least.”
The commands of NPHET and the Irish government have led to 85 percent of businesses surveyed drastically scaling back or closing down completely. Despite this, Irish politicians have found it perfectly reasonable to give themselves a salary increase as they lock people up and destroy businesses that some have spent their entire lives building.
The Prospect of Continual Lockdowns
While some countries in Europe—like non-EU member the UK—are showing signs of lifting all restrictions soon, Ireland’s so-called leaders are telling citizens it cannot be guaranteed that they’ll even be able to holiday in their own country this summer, let alone travel abroad. This despite the constant allowance of travel into the country while confining citizens and forcibly closing businesses.
Some Irish experts are warning that lockdowns in 2022 are a distinct possibility. Recently, Professor James McInerney said that “it seems obvious to me what to do … you’ve got to take a New Zealand strategy or else you're going to be in and out of lockdown for the rest of the year and maybe into 2022. There is a way out: it is to seal up your borders, and within the country it is to drive that virus down to zero." I.e., lock down until there are no covid-19 cases in the country.
Looking at the events that have unfolded since covid-19 reached the West, and taking all the above into consideration, would it be so surprising if many of us living in Western nations—especially in Europe—were to find ourselves regularly living with lockdowns? Why shouldn’t we expect that more scaremongering will occur in the event of further covid complications or another outbreak, as we “learn to live with the virus” and adapt to “the new normal”? (There will never be anything normal about life with covid-19 restrictions, nor should it ever be accepted as such.) There may, though, be a glimmer of hope for Europe: with the UK’s plan to ease and eventually lift its own extreme restrictions by June, pressure will likely be put on other governments to quietly follow suit.
But judging by how many populations have acquiesced to demands from their governments, the prospect of people submitting their basic liberties to central command on a yearly basis isn’t as absurd as it might have sounded twelve months ago—after all, people give up their liberties all the time, only less obviously. Of course, people don’t have to give in to fearmongering and diktats from so-called leaders—people can simply say no. And if enough individuals stand up and reject evidently pernicious lockdowns in the future, it will result in the end of lockdowns. It is really that simple.