Britain Coronavirus 

Ignore these siren calls to end the lockdown

Bravo Boris! Urged days ago to announce a speedy exit from lockdown, he has refused to be pushed. He’ll set out his plan next week amid signs that restrictions will be lifted only slowly.

Although the virus now seems under control, the prime minister’s caution is understandable. The rate of decline is still too small to permit a speedy lifting of restrictions without risking a fresh spiral in the infection rate.

Yet among people for whom damage to the economy outweighs all other considerations, there’s no acknowledgment of Johnson’s complex balancing act. For such people, lockdown must end immediately. Some of them claim, moreover, that there never was any need for it in the first place.

It is progressives who generally deny inconvenient truths which challenge their ideological dogma. If they hate the consequences of a situation, they decide to alter its analysis by rearranging the evidence. Yet the virus crisis has produced the same phenomenon among some conservatives, both in Britain and America, who are so quick to scorn it on the left.

At the sharp end of this group are people who make a fetish of free-market economics and the minimal state. A dismaying number of these “economy-firsters” have seized on certain statistical studies to claim that the virus death rate is lower than had been forecast and therefore Covid-19 is not so dangerous after all.

But all these statistical calculations are suspect because we still don’t know how many have been infected, nor how many have died.

What we do know for certain is what we can see for ourselves: that this virus is exceptionally infectious, and that a significant number of its victims suffer an alarmingly wide range of serious effects including organ failure, blood clots and strokes, as well as death. As Professor Nick Hart, who treated the prime minister, has put it: “Covid-19 is this generation’s polio.”

To read my whole Times column (£), please click here.

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