The human cost of COVID-19 restrictions
On the day Boris Johnson announced that he had decided to cancel 21 June ‘freedom day’ and extend the COVID-19 restrictions for another month, a comprehensive review of the human costs and collateral damage of these restrictions was published. The People’s Lockdown Inquiry (PLI) — a collaboration between Claire Fox (Director at the Academy of Ideas) and Laurence Fox (Leader of the Reclaim Party) — is a compilation of personal stories and reviews that aims to capture the impact of lockdowns on the British people.
If Mr Johnson had read the PLI before delivering his press conference he would have been reminded of the dire unintended consequences of not only the COVID-19 restrictions per se, but also of the egregious tactics deployed to ensure their implementation. These would include: the unprecedented social and educational isolation of our schoolchildren; the punishing assault on the mental health of the nation; how fear was strategically ‘weaponised’ to threaten the whole population; how big-tech censorship prevented a democratic debate; the disastrous repercussions for students in higher education; the tens of thousands of excess cancer deaths due to pandemic delays in diagnosis and treatment; and the economic devastation resulting from the scapegoating of the hospitality industry.
If broad descriptions of these dire ramifications of his government’s lockdown restrictions did not prevent him from cancelling freedom day, perhaps specific anecdotes and statistics included in the PLI might have had more emotional impact: the deterioration of an elderly mum in a care home who, being reduced to seeing her daughter through a double-glazed door, was transformed from someone who was ‘tough as old boots’ to someone shedding uncontrollable tears while repeating, ‘I’m just too sad’; Great Ormond Street children’s hospital reporting a 14-fold increase in abusive head trauma during the first lockdown; the bodies of six young adults being retrieved from the River Humber in one four-week period; and a grandma who ended her life by jumping in front of a train because she was terrified about the possibility of passing on the virus to her loved ones.
The evidence that lockdowns do not reduce COVID-19 mortality, yet are associated with a range of negative consequences, is well established, but — regrettably — this science appears not yet to have had influence on government rhetoric and decision making. Perhaps the PLI, with its inclusion of first-hand reports of the pain and suffering of ordinary people, will be more difficult to ignore. Either way, HART believes that the pandemic policy of locking down the healthy should be deposited in the skeleton cupboard of most disastrous, never-to-be-repeated government decisions. We can but hope.