Writing in this magazine a month ago, I applauded the government’s stated aim of trying to follow the science in dealing with Covid. Such promises are easier made than kept. Following science means understanding science. It means engaging with rival interpretations of the limited data in order to tease out what is most important in what we don’t know. Instead, the government in the UK (and many other places) seems uninterested in alternative viewpoints. The chosen narrative – that lockdown has saved countless lives – has been doggedly followed by all spokespeople. No doubt is allowed. We have been seeing the groupthink response to a perceived external threat that Jonathan Haidt describes so lucidly in his excellent book on human moral thinking, The Righteous Mind.
It has now become a matter of faith that lockdown is vital. Not only is it believed to be causally responsible for ‘flattening the curve’, but it is feared that releasing it too soon may cause a second spike in cases and ‘economic disaster’ (presumably due to further huge numbers of deaths). On what evidence is this made?
Even if one could understand why lockdown was imposed, it very rapidly became apparent that it had not been thought through. Not in terms of the wider effects on society (which have yet to be counted) and not even in terms of the ways that the virus itself might behave. But at the start, there was hardly any evidence. Everyone was guessing. Now we have a world of evidence, from around the globe, and the case for starting to reverse lockdown is compelling. Here are ten reasons why I believe that it is wrong to continue with lockdown and why we should start to reverse it immediately and rapidly.
1. You cannot understand the significance of this virus simply by looking at the raw death figures
Lockdown was enacted on a prediction of 500,000 deaths in the UK, rapidly reduced to 250,000 and then to 20,000.