Four decades of neoliberalism, characterized by individualism and atomisation, culminated in a UK government response to the COVID-19 global pandemic that, at best, can be described as benign and at worst shambolic.
With the outbreak in the UK centred in hospitals and care homes, the policy of the Conservative government has ostensibly been to eradicate the virus by closing down the entire economy and society.
It has used fear and panic as a weapon with which to drive it’s strategy forward long after the horse had bolted from China.
Professor Robert Dingwall sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Advisory Group (NERVTAG) which feeds into its Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). Dingwall posits that the government’s Corona virus warnings have “effectively terrorised” Britons “into believing that this is a disease that is going to kill you” even though most those infected will not be hospitalised. “Eighty per cent of the people who get this infection will never need to go near a hospital. Britain had completely lost sight of the true nature of the disease”, said Dingwall.
“Over the whole of the epidemic, even if we have no vaccine, a high proportion of people will not get this. Of those who do get it, a significant proportion have no symptoms at all. Of those who do get symptoms, the great majority will have moderate or mild disease and they will make a full recovery. Even in the most high risk group, the majority of the people who get this infection do not die.”
Whitty’s analysis clearly contradicts the sensationalist virtual modelling produced by Imperial College professor Neil Ferguson which was used to justify Boris Johnson’s policy U-turn from herd immunity to quarantining the healthy – a form of collective socioeconomic punishment commonly known as lockdown.
The Imperial College professor whose data unleashed global panic and hysteria and predicted half a million UK citizens would be killed by the virus, recently revealed that he wrote the code for his model 13 years ago. For Big Pharma there is potentially big money to be made in developing a COVID-19 vaccine.
But to justify investing in such a vaccine it needs Corona victims and plenty of them. However, as Whitty’s comments show, there were never going to be the requisite numbers to cause a panic. So the government-media complex have had to invent one which is where Ferguson comes in. Whitty inadvertently exposed the lie to the governments own propaganda.
Lockdown is paradoxically proving to be more problematic for the government than they had initially anticipated. Much to the surprise of Boris Johnson and his ministers, it would appear that the British public have taken Ferguson at his word rather more than they would have liked.
Their reluctance to leave the ‘safety’ of their homes for their ‘unsafe’ workplaces in anything like the kind of numbers the government have wanted, is stalling the capitalist cog.
What the establishment appear to have failed to take into account is that the human brain is hard wired to be fearful of short-term threats even when the evidence points to the fact that such fears are overstated. The governments repeated messaging that people continue to stay inside will require some feat in order to persuade them to come out again. This is borne out by the findings of a recent poll which indicates that 62 per cent of the population are worried about the affects of lifting the stay at home curbs too early. By contrast, only 38 per cent want to end their collective punishment.
It didn’t have to be this way. The government could have responded like the Swedes who never self-isolated and refused to shut their shops, bars and restaurants. They were able to do so because their government recognized that the data shows no evidence of a correlation between confining people to their homes and a reduction in deaths. The Swedish government has not been placed in the position of having to persuade their citizens to return to normal. Unlike in Sweden, Corona Phobia in the UK is entrenched.
In my view, this phenomena can be understood as a reaction to not only confusing and contradictory messaging emanating from Downing Street, but also in regards to misleading comparative country-by-country death count figures uncritically reported in the media.
Moreover, a highly incompetent Conservative government under the leadership of a scatter-brained Prime Minister also haven’t helped matters by implanting the idea in the public psyche that the ‘taking it on the chin’ herd immunity strategy was misguided as opposed to being a relatively sensible approach to dealing with the virus.
With the small business sector at the point of being decimated and with few jobs remaining for people to return to, particularly among the young, it is reasonable to assume that the poll figures highlighted above will be reversed as more and more people begin to question the wisdom of the governments lock down strategy.
At the time of writing, Boris Johnson has reportedly warned that the “only feasible long-term solution to end the Corona virus pandemic is the creation of an effective vaccine or treatment.” But given that this usually takes up to fifteen years of rigorous testing prior to approval, it looks like the ‘new normal’ is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
It’s ironical that rather than opposing the curtailing of the kinds of civil liberties since the virus emerged, much of the Left have aligned themselves with the forces of tyranny to enable what traditionally they have risen up against. It appears lost on people like George Galloway and Rania Khalek that, politically, they are to the right of Boris Johnson on this issue. These are confusing times that we live in.
Could it be that the word and the idea 'Democracy' need to be repeated endlessly because people now no longer feel they actually live in one?