Image: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The purpose of this open letter is to highlight the deficiencies of UK Government policy with respect to the handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. It will also highlight what the consequences of these policies have been and will continue to be, far beyond the point at which this pandemic ends.
Before we discuss the issues at hand it is worth noting that your government and your parliamentary system are now totally detached from the mood and needs of the people. It would clearly be unfair to lay the blame for the growing distrust people have solely on the current government and in a wider context, the two chambers of our parliamentary system. However, we are now at a critical juncture, not least with respect to COVID-19 but also to the ongoing global and national financial, economic and societal crisis that has been unfolding for many years. There are plenty of examples of those who seek to deflect from this uncomfortable reality and who place all these woes at the feet of the outbreak of the pandemic. However, this pandemic has proved to be nothing more than an accelerant for decades of negligent monetary and fiscal policies.
The pandemic is proving to be a catalyst in a myriad of ways, not least due to the fact that ever increasing numbers of people are seeing that the current political system is illusionary and has no intention of addressing the needs of the people. Any society which has people struggling to keep a roof over their head, pay for all the basic necessities such as food, clothes, gas, electric and water is a clear indication of decades of abject policy failure. Such is the extent of anger and mistrust that it will undoubtedly fuel yet more divisive elements in society at precisely the time when we need to see unity in an ongoing systemic crisis which will engulf the UK, the US, the rest of the western world and beyond.
In terms of your government’s handling of the virus, there have been and remain policy failures. Granted, some have only become obvious with hindsight, but once blessed with such understanding there continues to be policy decisions made which are no longer justified based upon this context. We should recall that initially there was an expectation that herd immunity would be government policy, however that was quickly abandoned in favour of a complete lockdown due to the production of data which has subsequently proved to be a gross overestimation of the risks that COVID-19 presented.
Given that data, it was reasonable to assume that any government would have responded by shifting its policy decision from herd immunity to a lockdown. However, we should recall that there were fears that people would suffer lockdown fatigue, which appears to have been a critical factor in the delay in the implementation of the lockdown and this has proved to be a serious error of judgment. Ironically, here we are months later and we are still suffering from lockdown measures and any thought of that lockdown fatigue has long since been forgotten.
Initially there was some justification for government lockdown policy, especially given the data we saw in April, but that justification is now at best questionable and arguably to a large extent inappropriate. We have seen the relaxation of a number of lockdown measures but this is set against the backdrop of some very concerning developments. We will firstly address the issues directly attributable to COVID-19 and then the very serious indirect consequences which will have many short and long term consequences.
There have been reports of deaths being wrongly attributed to COVID-19 and to varying degrees based on spurious data. The fact that there was a decrease of approximately 5000 deaths from the official UK government data proves beyond any doubt that this has been the case. One could argue that this is merely the tip of an iceberg. The constant media focus on the number of cases as opposed to the number of deaths has been self-evident. When we see that, based on the five year average, we have had – the last we checked – eight weeks of no increase in the number of deaths in England and Wales, this is a critical statistic which should be of primary focus in ongoing policy deliberations. Furthermore, the number of cases diagnosed should also reflect the extent of testing that is being done at any given time. Failure to do so is a clear misrepresentation of why we might be seeing a rise in case numbers. Granted, we cannot delineate cases from fatalities but there must come a point when the focus shifts from the former to the latter. That is now being borne out by the indirect consequences which we will come to shortly. With regards to the tests themselves, there are legitimate concerns as to their reliability and therefore one could argue that the case numbers published are also questionable.
In terms of lockdown policies, there are clear contradictions that are driven in part by economic imperatives which the government is clearly concerned about. However, it is pointless demanding that people return to work when the climate of unnecessary fear is the reason why people will not do so. It is also very clear that the economic imperative is driving lockdown policies but they are contradictory and adding to this climate of fear.
The fact that we now have to wear face masks in supermarkets, there is additional screening and hand sanitisers, which were not present for months, is causing confusion and fear. What makes these policies redundant is seeing staff not wearing masks, which, given they are in contact with many more people on a daily basis than supermarket customers, is utterly contradictory. If we now extend that to the issue of pubs, restaurants and cafes, people are not required to wear masks, which, given they have to eat, makes complete sense. However, based on the government’s criteria in supermarkets, these places should not be open given the risks that not wearing masks in such places apparently poses based on government policy and advice. What compounds these contradictions is the fact that there was a prior admission that masks are ineffective anyway. There are other examples of these contradictory policies but for brevity we will move onto the indirect consequences which are arguably far more serious than the virus itself.
Firstly there is the serious issue of people who have not had GP surgery consultations and subsequent hospital treatment which could – and has – resulted in unnecessary deaths from disease and other complications. The longer current COVID-19 policies continue it is irrefutable that this will increasingly become a problem, especially given the fact that we are now entering autumn and the start of the flu season. When taking such risks results in the deaths of more people than the number of deaths from the virus itself, it is clear that such policy decisions lack credibility. As well as the physiological concerns, there is also the risk of long term psychological damage that will result from the fear which will have a lasting effect on some people. The ongoing economic damage is also going to place intolerable burdens on many people in society, resulting in increased risks of addiction, domestic violence, health issues and psychological trauma in people, especially those in vulnerable groups.
What is also a legitimate concern which we are going to telegraph now is that when the flu season starts, we are going to see many people misdiagnosed as having COVID-19 and the normal death rates associated with the flu season being attributed to COVID-19. Not only could this grossly manipulate data but it will lead to the justification for the implementation of unnecessary government policy measures which will cause further enormous economic damage and further physiological and psychological impact on millions of people.
There comes a point when the plight of many millions of people needs to take precedent over a virus which affects a very small percentage of people and a significantly lesser proportion of those resulting in death. Whilst many people may not believe that your government is terrified of a second lockdown and the enormous consequential fallout of doing so, what your government is failing to appreciate is that its ongoing policies are contributing to a far greater extent in terms of this economic damage and subsequent consequences.
Whilst there is some justification for your government to not want people to become complacent with regards to the virus, the media response has been utterly disproportionate on too many occasions. The contrary government policy has also been self-evident on far too many occasions. The idea that this lockdown is going to continue until there is a vaccine is also ridiculously myopic, given that virus mutations suggest that the benefits of any vaccine might be limited and such ongoing government policy measures are going to cause the very problems they seek to prevent. There should also be the publication of all data that your government is in receipt of, which has clearly not been the case. The recent leak of SAGE data is, from our perspective, unduly alarmingly and indicative of a pattern of advice given to your government that needs to be scrutinised and not acted upon without due consideration.
Governments normally have the benefit of history to judge them on their actions. Unfortunately, your government has no such luxury. If we had a stable economy then the fallout would be far less pronounced. What doesn’t help is that we have central bank policy which is masking the reality of the economic, financial and societal carnage that is now unfolding because of crass monetary policy since the GFC of 2008. Your government will experience the full effects of what is unfolding within the current parliamentary term and therefore it is critical you make the correct decisions now with regards to COVID-19, as currently you aren’t and if you continue to proceed this way, then your worst nightmare is going to unfold but on a scale you wouldn’t want to have to comprehend.
The Sirius Report