The following is a guest post by David Kurten, a Brexit Alliance London Assembly Member.
The coronavirus lockdown in the United Kingdom began at the end of the third week of March. This was after a series of U-turns by the government, which had previously adopted a light touch approach which it said was guided by science. In the first half of March, the government and their advisors announced that schools should stay open because there was very little chance of the virus being widely transmitted by children. London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan stated that there was no risk of catching the virus on a train or a bus. We were also told that gathering in large numbers outdoors would not spread the virus so the Cheltenham Festival could go ahead. Pubs, restaurants and cafes remained open.
This all changed after aggressive and sustained attacks from the mainstream media. Overnight the ‘science’ changed, and the government put the country into a lockdown on 21st March demanding that pubs, cafes and shops be shut, and the vast majority of people stay at home for their own safety. Anyone who disagreed was smeared as irresponsible, unintelligent and uneducated by the mainstream media compared to the wonderful all-knowing experts who had just done a 180 degree turn on their scientific advice.
One of the major factors which caused these U-turns was mathematical modelling done by Professor Ferguson of Imperial College who predicted on 16th March that over 500,000 people would die in the UK if the government did not put the country into lockdown, and 250,000 would die even with a lockdown. Ferguson then drastically reduced his forecast and predicted there would only be 20,000 deaths on 25th March - the same day that the Coronavirus Act was passed in Parliament. Thus the very ‘scientific’ justification of the lockdown was removed just as it was implemented. By then however, it was too late – Parliament was shut down just after MPs and Peers suspended centuries of civil liberties, believing that it was necessary to save lives. The mainstream media went into full smear mode to vilify and discredit anyone who dared to question the wisdom of locking down the country based on dubious mathematical modelling which was contradicted by the same person who made it.
Yet despite confining the majority of the country to house arrest apart from being allowed out once a day to exercise or go shopping, flights continue to arrive from China, Italy, Spain and other destinations which are coronavirus hotspots, bringing over 100,000 passengers a week to the UK with no checks or tests to see if they are bringing the virus with them. In addition, dozens of illegal immigrants continue to arrive on the beaches of Kent and Sussex every day, brought over by people smugglers from the virus hotspot of France. Despite there now being a surge in the number of unemployed people in the UK due to the closure and potential bankruptcy of millions of small and medium sized businesses, plane loads of Romanians have flown in to the UK to work on British farms – again without any testing or arrangements to quarantine anyone who may be bringing the virus to the UK.
While the laxity on immigration undermines the effects of placing restrictions on residents, even worse is the rapid deterioration in relations between the police and the public. In the Coronavirus Act, MPs gave police forces unprecedented powers to arrest and charge people for everyday activities such as gathering in groups of more than two people, and police forces and officers around the country have immediately begun to use these powers to chase, harass and smear ordinary people doing ordinary things. There is clearly almost no risk of passing on the virus to someone while lying in a park sunbathing at a distance from other people or sitting on a bench for a few minutes, but these harmless and innocuous activities have been criminalised.
The fabric of the nation and normally cordial relations between neighbours are being eroded as police forces encourage neighbours to snitch on each other and report them for having dinner parties or leaving the house more than once a day. Other police forces even threaten to look through your shopping and issue fines if they decide you have made a ‘non-essential purchase.’ This asinine behaviour was compounded into hypocrisy by the Metropolitan Police on Thursday when they gathered with a large crowd of people on Westminster Bridge on 16th April to ‘clap for the NHS’ – clearly far riskier in spreading the virus than someone sitting alone on a bench.
The heavy-handed criminalisation of everyday activities to stop the spread of the virus makes no sense at all when the police themselves openly engage in the very activities they demand other people stop, and when tens of thousands of people arrive every day in our airports with no virus checks whatsoever.
The lockdown began because the government was given some dodgy data and was frightened of the mainstream media, and centuries of civil liberties were removed with little real scrutiny from MPs as the Coronavirus Act was rushed through Parliament in three days. That decision is now tearing at the fabric of the nation and turning neighbour against neighbour, as they are encouraged to turn on each other by some police forces in the fashion of the East German Stasi.
Now however, there is new observable data showing that there is no evidence at all that a shutdown or a lockdown has any effect in reducing the spread of the virus or the mortality rate. Sweden has been pilloried in the mainstream media for taking a different course of action. They have kept their country running as normal with schools, bars, restaurants and businesses all still open. The mortality rate per million people in Sweden is much lower than in the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Spain which have implemented unprecedented restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly.
On the basis of this real evidence and the long-term damage it is doing to communities and the economy, the government should now reject the spurious and discredited mathematical modelling which they used to justify this lockdown. There is no good reason now why schools and garden centres remain closed, or why police continue to spend their time and resources moving on people sitting alone on a park bench. It is time to end the lockdown and restore our civil liberties.
All views expressed in contributions by named authors are their own and may not reflect the views of The Freedom Association.
Photo credit: https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/london-assembly/london-assembly-publications