Toby Young Toby Young

My plans for a Covid inquiry

[Getty Images]

The public inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has already started. Not the official one, which won’t get under way until next year, but the unofficial ones. First out of the gate was the Sunday Times on 24 May, followed by the New Statesman and, last week, the Financial Times. In addition, there will be ‘inquiries’ by other newspapers and magazines, parliamentary select committees, television and radio programmes, think tanks and universities, scientific and medical journals.

Few will be able to resist blaming the UK’s higher-than-average death toll on the government’s failure to lock down earlier. That’s been the verdict of those that have been published so far, and we know in advance that Sir Patrick Vallance and Neil Ferguson will confirm this when they’re asked to testify by Uncle Tom Cobley and all. They’ve said as much already. The only thing all these ‘non-partisan’ panels of experts will dis-agree about is exactly how many dead bodies can be chalked up to Boris Johnson’s ‘dither and delay’.

My panel won’t take it for granted that locking down the entire population was the right thing to do

If you’re a lockdown sceptic like me, this is frustrating. It will mean the next time a new virus emerges from China, however mild, the government will place the entire country under lockdown within 24 hours of patient zero getting a sore throat. Just like in March, all hospital patients still breathing will be turfed out of their beds to ‘protect the NHS’, billions will be spent on pop-up hospitals that are never used, schools will be closed unnecessarily for six months, the Chancellor will borrow hundreds of billions so the economy can be mothballed indefinitely, and Matt Hancock will spend billions on a track-and-trace system that is about as effective as two tin cans connected by a piece of string.

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