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Lionel Shriver

The Covid hysteria is getting worse

The Covid hysteria is getting worse
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Readers may recall a column last month that laid out powerful evidence for the proposition that the ethnic and racial disparities for dire Covid outcomes are overwhelmingly due to obesity. While I also read the piece aloud for posting online, fewer of you will have listened to the audio rendition. That’s because YouTube took it down.

The explanation was pro forma: the column violated the site’s opaque ‘community guidelines’. An appeal produced the further explanation: ‘YouTube does not allow content that spreads medical misinformation that contradicts the World Health Organisation or local health authorities’ medical information about Covid-19, including on methods to prevent, treat, or diagnose Covid-19 and means of transmission of Covid-19. Learn more.’ Thus if I were to ‘learn more’ from YouTube, I would only be allowed to absorb information in lockstep with the government line.

You may also recall that my loony, irresponsible text, imperilling the lives of grandparents everywhere, was based on a large study conducted by researchers at Columbia University, whose results were published in the New York Times. Gosh, the sicko anti-vaxxer tin-hatters now lurk in the most alarmingly legitimate boltholes.

Scads of people now use YouTube and Facebook as their primary sources of news, so the platforms’ increasingly heavy-handed censorship is alone a concern. Yet with the UK circling the toilet bowl in the name of public health, our restricted access to diverse viewpoints on the pandemic is an even graver threat than the ‘mere’ curtailment of free speech.

Outside rare contrary voices like mine, silenced in August, we continue to be fed a steady diet of Covid hysteria, which amounts to government-sponsored terrorism. After all, what is terrorism? The instillation of pervasive social fear to achieve political ends. Sounds like this administration’s Covid strategy in a nutshell. Good gracious, and I thought governments were meant to protect us from terrorism.

For months now, Boris and his Sage henchmen have warned frenetically about the likelihood of a second wave. The sudden backtracking on opening up the economy — Monday’s arbitrary, scientifically baseless ‘rule of six’, limiting all gatherings to half a dozen; the threat of a nationwide curfew — gives every indication that the UK government is preparing for a second wave. These folks could profit politically from a second wave, if only because they’ve predicted it for so long, and another full lockdown would seem to justify the first one. The most expedient way to cover up a mistake is to keep making it.

I’m not a natural conspiracy theorist. I instinctively trace the source of human catastrophe to incompetence, a quality in which our species is far more awash than malign intent. Nevertheless, it’s within this government’s power to make out that there is a second wave. Indeed, the perverse project may already be under way.

Let’s start with the definition. We should rightly worry about a second wave of deaths. Covid fatalities have been rumpling along the X-axis at barely above zero for two months. But Boris has brought down the hammer on treacherous convocations of seven people, even outside, because of a rise in cases. Ergo, a ‘second wave’ will be defined as a surge in cases, even if deaths remain negligible and admissions to hospitals presently half-empty barely rise.

This escalation of cases for the last month has a host of explanations, one being that lockdowns only delay infections so long as the virus is still circulating at all. Lockdowns do not save lives, unless we lock down for ever, in which case I suggest we all procure a mercifully deadly dose of cyanide. The other obvious cause is vastly ramped-up testing, which identifies the asymptomatic.

Testing also turns up false positives, estimated at roughly 2 per cent. When you account for the fact that PCR tests are wildly oversensitive, and thus systematically stigmatise loads of people who merely carry a kind of viral flotsam and are not infectious, the real false positivity rate is much higher. With widespread testing that produces a high percentage of false positives, we will always appear to be amid a raging epidemic. This nightmare will never be over. And the authorities’ suffocating restrictions for our ‘own good’ won’t ever be over, either.

That’s why the ‘moonshot’ proposal to get us to test ourselves every day as automatically as we brush our teeth has activated the few dormant cells in my brain that are vulnerable to conspiracy theories. Daily testing of 67 million people would, if nothing else, produce a bumper crop of false positives. It would have the happy side benefit of inducing permanently heightened anxiety in us serfs: more terrorism. It’s a formula for maintaining a state of emergency until the end of time. At an eye-popping cost of £100 billion, it would also, by the by, help ensure sovereign bankruptcy.

On encountering Chris Whitty’s baleful announcement that the UK is ‘on the edge of losing control’ of the virus, I can’t have been alone in spewing coffee all over a new iPad. Our betters have never controlled the virus. They’ve just controlled us.

They’re not planning to stop controlling us. This government is starting to behave as if it wants a second wave, ideally even worse than the first, and a second lockdown, ideally even worse than the first as well. Otherwise, we wake up one day and realise: oh, excess deaths for 2020 weren’t all that high compared to previous years with especially bad flu. Most of us are still here. And the country is in shambles. The finger-pointing could grow unpleasant.

Pay less attention to case numbers. Primarily attend to deaths, and secondarily to hospital admissions (also paltry for the last two months). Only the lethality of this disease has justified the wholesale destruction of our social lives, our work lives, our livelihoods, and our civil rights — including freedom of speech, apparently. If draconian measures are triggered by an uptick in mere ‘cases’, which for the most part do not represent people gravely or terminally ill, the country could be plunged into repeated lockdowns to suppress the head cold.

Written byLionel Shriver

Lionel Shriver is a columnist at The Spectator and author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, among other books.

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