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Boris’s new Covid restrictions are unscientific mumbo jumbo and an exercise in futility that will wreak havoc on millions


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Boris’s new Covid restrictions are unscientific mumbo jumbo and an exercise in futility that will wreak havoc on millions

By Peter Andrews, Irish science journalist and writer based in London. He has a background in the life sciences, and graduated from the University of Glasgow with a degree in genetics

 

I accept my dissenting voice may not be heeded by the UK government, but when a former Supreme Court judge delivers a damning verdict that the rules are ‘pointless, arbitrary and unnecessary’, shouldn’t they be listening?

 

The UK has announced a fresh suite of draconian Covid restrictions, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning they could be in place for six months. But, like all previous attempts, the new rules are worse than useless.

 

You’ve all heard the new rules by now, so I won’t analyse the details of what the individual implications will be. Just as poring over a government white paper based on astrology would be pointless, tepid nit-picking within the nascent pseudoscience of ‘Covidology’ is an exercise in futility. It’s also an immediate acceptance of the quacks’ terms of the argument.

 

Boris Johnson’s new restrictions are destructive, senseless and may be indefinite. A freedom-loving nation? Don’t make me laugh

 

‘The rule of six’ could be ‘the rule of seven’, the pubs could close at midnight or 10pm, level 4, 5 or 75 could be enforced – none of this would make any difference. Nor is it acceptable. The fiddled numbers, the fake compromises, the newspeak – all of it is misdirection. In a nutshell, this doubling down means nothing less than the acceleration of an end to the free, decent life to which all human beings are born entitled. Only a total return to normality should be demanded, and it’s non-negotiable.

 

Heavyweight opposition

Just ask former Supreme Court justice Lord Jonathan Sumption, who has been making waves this week with his scathing analysis of the government’s madcap plot. He’s dubbed Johnson’s ‘rule of six’ “pointless, arbitrary and unnecessary”. 

 

It’s pointless, he says, because, without a Stasi-like secret army of citizen spies, it cannot be enforced. He is correct, of course (although I don’t consider the likelihood of an army of snitchers quite as unlikely as he seems to). It’s arbitrary because it’s far from universal – people mix in much larger numbers in schools and workplaces, on public transport and in the streets, all of which is essential. And it’s unnecessary because the increase in positive tests is being driven – as Health Secretary Matt Hancock is so fond of reminding us – by the young, to whom the disease poses relatively little threat.

 

Lord Sumption’s verdict is a pretty comprehensive takedown of the prime minister by one of the finest legal minds in the country, and every word of it is right.

 

I would add one more adjective to the list, to apply to all Covid restrictions from national lockdowns to hand-washing: unscientific. That’s not to claim that alcoholic soap, say, does not kill viral particles. I have no doubt that it does. But my question to any scientist would be “why are we trying to kill viral particles?” A reason for pitting state power against an endemic respiratory virus is never asked for or given. If you think the answer is self-evident, then please briefly and clearly outline it. Otherwise, I suggest you recall the words of the Hippocratic Oath, and first do no harm.

 

What’s the plan?

A large part of the problem is that the government has stopped declaring what it is that it’s  trying to do. Is it flattening the curve, getting to zero cases of Covid, or what? As 32 top scientists wrote in their open letter to the government leadership this week, without a clearly stated objective, “neither the overarching strategy, nor individual policy choices within it, can be evaluated”.

 

But this is no oversight. It is a low trick the mandarins have conjured to avoid the consequences of their actions – they can always change the story post hoc. Like so much else of modern Britain, it could have come straight out of Orwell. Unsurprisingly, those 32 brave dissenters suffered personal abuse and their calls were ignored, as the government announced their half-baked scheme that very evening.

 

I try never to wave my scientific education in people’s faces in arguments, and, not being a devoted scholar, would never claim to be truly expert in any realm of science. But one thing a scientific education does teach you is that scientists can be just as irrational, cultish and politically compromised as everybody else. Do not ‘trust the experts’. Never ‘follow the science’. These are often PR canards designed to boondoggle people into horrible conditions that their instincts scream against. Trust your instincts, and believe in evidence, not politics dressed up as science.

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