Alistair Haimes

Lockdown sceptics should support this lockdown

(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Scepticism is supposed to be the bedrock of science. But where scepticism shades into cynicism it can be as blind to changing events as the unexamined credence it claims to displace. Scientific belief should be based on informed supposition which is then rigorously tested against the evidence — that is the basis of the scientific method. There should be no shame in changing opinions and assumptions when facts change. We start with assumptions, test them against the evidence (which itself changes) and then use that conclusion to repeat the process, ad infinitum. So if conclusions don’t change when facts change, something might have gone awry.

As an example: your view on the merits of the current winter lockdown versus the Halloween lockdown. First: do you think a lockdown is prima facie defensible? To some people, ‘no!’; to far more people, ‘normally no, but it depends’. Whatever initial view you put into your decision hopper, now try to bend that assumption around the first input of information: the healthcare system either (a) clearly has capacity left, apparently running at below average levels for the time of year, as it was in October; or (b) might credibly need to triage fairly basic healthcare within, say, three weeks as seems to be the case now, or so we are told. Whether we are in (a) or (b) should change your opinion; if it doesn’t, you might be doing this wrong.

Now, add in the game-changer of approved, effective vaccines. Your opinion should be different before and after the approval of the vaccines (2 December for Pfizer, 30 December for Oxford). Put simply, it is perfectly justifiable to be against open-ended restrictions in a world with no vaccine, but to think a brief period of restriction while vaccines are rolled out is sensible, and personally I know many lockdown sceptics whose views pivoted on the day the first vaccine was approved.

An opening in a rock without an exit is a cave — but if you can see an exit, it’s a tunnel

Finally, consider the pace of the epidemic.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in