Jonathan Sumption

Jonathan Sumption: ‘You cannot imprison an entire population’

Police Officer patrols a Brighton beach (Getty Images).

The current rationale for the lockdown is incoherent. The old rationale was: ‘you must spread the infections over a longer period so as to allow the NHS to catch up’. So that was why there was the slogan ‘Save the NHS’. Well, they’ve dropped that part of the slogan – and for good reasons. Currently, the NHS has more than doubled its intensive care capacity. It’s an impressive achievement by the government. But they need to follow the logic of it. The crucial fact is that [the government’s] paper accepts that Covid-19 is going to be with us long term. That is the likely outcome. And it’s consistent with the science. Once the a virus has taken hold in a population, it doesn’t just go away until enough people have been exposed to the disease to acquire immunity or a vaccine turns up. So when the lockdown ends, whenever that is, the virus will still be there waiting for us.

More than nine tenths of the deaths are cases in which the death certificate shows that there were multiple causes of death: Coronavirus was only one of them. This is a virus that attacks people with really serious pre-existing vulnerabilities. Almost all of these people are very old and suffering from conditions serious enough to be mentioned as a cause of death on the certificate. The overwhelming majority would have died. A bit later, but not much later.

What I’m advocating now is that the lockdown should become entirely voluntary. It is up to us, not the state, to decide what risks we are going to take with our own bodies.

What I’m advocating now is that the lockdown should become entirely voluntary. It is up to us, not the state, to decide what risks we are going to take with our own bodies.

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