RICHARD LITTLEJOHN on the latest calls for a fresh Covid lockdown
RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: If dodgy data is being used to manipulate us into a fresh Covid lockdown, it’s a scandal that way eclipses cheese and wine
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, but don’t go making any plans for New Year just yet. That appeared to be the message coming out of Downing Street tonight.
The good news is we’ve been granted a stay of execution. The bad news is that this time next week we could be back in lockdown.
After today’s emergency Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister postponed a decision on whether to impose further Covid restrictions.
With only three days to go, it is highly unlikely that Christmas will be cancelled. But Boris Johnson said after the Cabinet meeting that nothing was being ruled out.
He insisted ministers still don’t have enough data to determine what happens next. Pity he didn’t reach that same conclusion before he pressed the panic button prematurely over a week ago and brought in Plan B, unleashing a fresh wave of uncertainty and inflicting serious collateral damage on the already-struggling hospitality industry.
Still, we should perhaps be grateful for small mercies. There was a clear and present danger that Christmas could have been kiboshed for the second year running. There were apparently three alternative plans on the table yesterday, up to and including a return to full lockdown.
After today’s emergency Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister postponed a decision on whether to impose further Covid restrictions. With only three days to go, it is highly unlikely that Christmas will be cancelled. But Boris Johnson said after the Cabinet meeting that nothing was being ruled out
For our reprieve, however temporary, we can thank those 100 Tory MPs who broke ranks and voted against the Government last week and members of the Cabinet vehemently opposed to any further curbs of civil liberties.
After losing his Brexit blood brother Lord Frost, Boris couldn’t afford any more ministerial resignations. Trapped between the Zero Covid fanatics and his backbenchers, he chose to delay the day of reckoning.
How long that position will hold remains to be seen. By all accounts, Whitehall officials have already drawn up plans for a two-week long ‘circuit breaker’ starting as early as next Tuesday, December 28.
Even that doesn’t go far enough for some of the more extreme members of SAGE, the scientific advisory committee, who want lockdown to last the whole of January, if not for ever.
We’re not out of the woods yet. What the nation could have done with was firm leadership. Instead we got vacillation.
As I wrote recently, Boris is at his best when he gambles and leads from the front — just as he did when winning two London mayoral races, the Brexit referendum and a thumping General Election victory.
Right now, he’s a shadow of his former self, buffeted by events. By nature, he’s always been a risk-taker, but since contracting Covid himself he’s become increasingly risk-averse.
Yesterday, he hid behind an alleged lack of data. But he’s got data coming out of his ears. If he studied it carefully, he would see that the number of hospitalisations and deaths from/with Covid is actually falling.
True, the Omicron variant is especially infectious, but in all but a handful of cases it isn’t fatal. Or even seriously debilitating. Most people don’t even know they’ve got it until they have to take a lateral flow test. Others report mild flu-like symptoms or say it’s a bit like having a bad hangover.
There are still plenty of people with Covid Stockholm Syndrome who have been spooked into staying at home and wearing masks indoor. Pictured, empty desks seen inside the Lloyds of London building on December 20
Since when did anyone ever think of cancelling Christmas and New Year celebrations on the grounds that some people might get a bad hangover? Yet SAGE and others continue to pump out ludicrous, blood-curdling predictions, which invariably prove wildly inaccurate.
Up until now, we have been told that Boris has always ‘followed the science’ and tailored his Covid policies accordingly.
But that version of events has been contradicted by a fascinating exchange on social media between Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator magazine, and the chairman of the Sage committee which predicted Omicron would kill 6,000 people a day in Britain.
Nelson asked Professor Graham Medley why the committee had ignored evidence from South Africa that Omicron was much less deadly than the earlier Delta variant? Medley admitted SAGE was encouraged by ‘decision-makers’ to produce worst-case scenarios. ‘We generally model what we are asked to model,’ he said.
That suggests ministers are telling The Science to come up with alarmist ‘evidence’ to support decisions which have already been taken, not the other way round.
Is it any wonder that some of us refuse to believe a single word the ‘experts’ say about Covid any more?
These are the questions the BBC and the rest of the broadcast media should be asking, instead of screaming for ever tougher measures and obsessing over cheese and wine ‘gatherings’.
Yes, the notion of one rule for them and another for the rest of us grates. But the Guardianista hysteria over whether Boris and his civil servants shared a platter of Camembert and a bottle of Soixante Neuf du Pape after a hard day in Downing Street is merely a distraction from the main event.
If dodgy data is being used deliberately to manipulate us into another lockdown, and it turns out there is no danger of the NHS being overwhelmed this winter, it’s a scandal which needs investigating.
If what Nelson has uncovered is true, there’s absolutely no justification for ministers even considering further restrictions.
So why on earth are we still facing the prospect of a crippling ‘circuit breaker’ starting after Boxing Day?
The uncertainty has already cost bars, pubs and restaurants billions of pounds in lost revenue. Any kind of shutdown over New Year would be catastrophic. Pictured, empty tables outside a bar in Soho
The uncertainty has already cost bars, pubs and restaurants billions of pounds in lost revenue. Any kind of shutdown over New Year would be catastrophic.
Yes, there are still plenty of people with Covid Stockholm Syndrome who have been spooked into staying at home and wearing masks indoors.
But I detect that the patience of an increasing number is beginning to wear thin. Millions of us have already decided enough is enough. Thus far and no further.
We don’t trust the politicians to dictate where we can go or who we can meet any more. Not now we have been double, triple, flu and pneumonia jabbed.
Boris may have told everyone who can to work from home and wear a mask whenever they leave the house.
But that hasn’t stopped millions of us from heading into town to meet friends and do a bit of last minute Christmas shopping.
I can only speak for my patch of North London, but the local shops seem to be doing brisk business and, unless I’m imagining it, plenty of people are ignoring the exhortation to wear masks.
Colleagues who ventured into London’s West End at the weekend report that the place was rocking and rolling. It’s the same story in towns and cities across the country.
Just study the photos of shoppers in Manchester and Birmingham, the revellers in Newcastle and Leeds.
While Boris frets over whether to impose a fresh lockdown, apparently on the basis of dodgy science, half the country has already decided that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.
So ignore the disciples of doom. The NHS can look after itself for a change. It’s Christmas.
Eat, drink and be merry, while you still can.
Because if The Science is right, tomorrow . . . WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!
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