The Grand COVID Collapse

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It is a chilly morning and in between warm cups of tea, I continued with my research on the dos and don’ts of lockdown. Mulling over what I have read, I think if unchecked we are as society subtly moving towards totalitarianism.

I know it sounds preposterous, but if you read below there is a good reason I am saying this . Written by Martin Kahn

Failed Strategy

There was clear evidence from Liverpool that the number of cases was falling at the time of the second lockdown in early November. The prediction of 4000 deaths per day was wrong and data has proved it. Many, unaware of their condition, suffered from COVID-19 asymptomatically. The death rate is 0.05% for below 65 and lower than predicted and below other forms of illnesses like cancer. The recovery rate is getting better with people being discharged every day. Then why are things turning stricter than relaxed, how long will the tier systems continue?

Is the government really trying to control a virus, which is not possible? No one can control a virus; all we can do is to test to see if people showing COVID symptoms are positive or not. Ok, you can isolate the positive cases, but then, what about the asymptomatic people? What about the PCR test not able to differentiate between COVID and non-COVID viral RNAs? What about low-test sensitivity and false positives?

Well, the answer given is, we will test everybody regularly under ‘operation moon-shot’, even though there is no proof that screening the population of the UK will help in reducing transmission hospitalisations and deaths. Also, is it even possible to roll out 10 million COVID-19 tests a day? The technology and support system to roll out such a plan does not exist and will cost about 100 billion GBP.

A recent study on lateral flow tests used in operation moon-shot, besides being less sensitive, saw a false positive rate of 0.32%. Initially, 67 areas in England would see mass testing for asymptomatic people. As per November 17 data from Liverpool pilot, 0.7% of people tested positive. So, for argument’s sake, a 0.2% false-positive rate leads to 20,000 false-positive cases a day for a 10 million rollout. Which means neighbourhoods may come under Tier 3 restrictions and face quarantine, even though there are no actual or far less COVID-19 cases present in the area.

Tier 3 essentially equals the same restrictions as a lockdown, and a circuit break approach doesn’t really stop anything, as a high number of cases, excluding false positives, is a sign of a critical mass of infection-spread that is beyond control. Looks like the government did not think through on this one and did not base the second lockdown and Tier systems on data, but on a blanket approach to lock everything down till a vaccine is available.

This will lead to a lot of heartaches and bad blood since the most affected by the restrictions are the people who rarely have work from home options and struggle to put food on the table. The closure or loss in local businesses means unemployment or having to work at even lower wages than before. Not able to find a livelihood for a long time is very disenfranchising, deprives one of hope, and leads to desperation.

Evidently, there are anti-lockdown protests happening throughout the UK and I do not see this going away easily

Human Impact

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disruptive effect on NHS care. They sent non- COVID patients home and cancelled operations to avoid rationing of intensive care and create capacity during the pandemic. This means there is a huge backlog of non-COVID care building up as we continue with the current strategy. If we do not start reducing the NHS waiting times, we risk making non-COVID-19 patients vulnerable to other illnesses. It is important to care for COVID-19 patients and save lives, however, NHS also needs to look at other non-COVID patients with delayed treatments or we may end up killing more people for untreated illnesses (such as the 1.6 million missed cancer screenings)

This impact will be difficult to forgive and forget

Economic Impact

The current national debt is around 2 trillion GBP, and the furlough scheme is adding 2 billion a day. Plus, millions more in pandemic related activities. The unemployment is at 2.5 million and as more businesses close because of Tier 3 restrictions, the economic impact will worsen. The net effect is that the debt to GDP ratio is over 100%. So essentially, we are spending more than earning and then borrowing more to service the already borrowed money. Thus, staring into a difficult to fill debt-black-hole with its ramifications.

What does this mean? How will the government tackle the national debt? Will the government increase tax to cover for the cost of COVID-19 response? Yes, there is a high probability that taxes will go up. The likely targets are VAT, income tax, and sales tax range.

Thus, net income will drop, things will become dearer, yet another pain point in an already difficult situation.

Social Impact

It is still unclear why hospitality is a risk, but retail is not. Can wet-led pubs really serve a substantial meal, aren’t these focussed on communities and form a central part of local social life? Back in 2010, the strategy to a substantial turnover was to improve the menu

and serve meals. But by 2020 the casual dining market has become saturated with high street restaurant chains starting shop next door. Customers now have a lot of eatingout options to choose from and pub owners logically moved to a more drink focussed model. This helped to save the cost of running a kitchen and serve local patrons who frequent such wet pubs to socialise and not really have a meal. The idea is to support each other in the community. Therefore, asking wet-led pubs to serve full meals to keep running is not practical.

The holiday season was their only hope to repair the lockdown damage. But with new post lockdown rules, after December 2, that seems to wane away.

The restrictions will first force the local wet-led pubs to close and then the independent breweries who supply the on-trade market like pubs and wet-led pubs. For some breweries, 98% of its business was on-trade market i.e. wet-led pubs and has disappeared overnight

Selectively targeting of local pubs and wet-led pubs is not good and will have a destructive social effect. Plus, it is arbitrary since stores and supermarkets are selling alcohol freely. This will remain in social memory for a long time.

Unclear Unreasonable Unpredictable Approach

Things look very unreasonable, without proper justification. How can, for example, in Wales, alcohol be an essential item and school uniform not? What is the reasoning? Frankly, does trolley policing at stores not sound ridiculous? Show a “grown-up understanding”, is what they say. What that even means is a mystery.

Can playing music in your home with your support bubble be a party? Yes, since COVID marshals in England called out police, who insisted on getting into the house to check. If police can raid a greeting card shop on suspicion, then raiding homes will not be far behind.

The usual narrative is that we are in this together and is for the safety of all. But for people under Tier 3 restrictions, it feels like being treated as criminals. Such an approach comes across as high handed, breeds resentment, and erodes social trust.

What next?

Perhaps you cannot visit people in Tier 3 or talk to them till their reintegration into the system through a freedom pass or vaccination is complete. Or maybe getting infected to get a freedom pass is a practical way to lead a normal life.

Under the COVID-19 pandemic response, basic freedom and rights seem to have ended. Is the government taking away civil liberties? How else do you explain police given special powers to stop and search people on suspicion, or force them to take a test 

and place under quarantine? Or fining people for expressing their dissatisfaction on the COVID-19 response strategy and lockdown.

How else does one explain the disproportionate lockdown measures taken that destroy livelihoods of certain groups and curtail freedom of worship or movement based on unreliable data and information?

We are now moving towards a scenario where we will have to prove our right to freedom through a freedom pass by testing negative regularly. So that means now I have to choose between testing negative for a freedom pass and taking care of my ailing mother who is showing COVID-19 symptoms.

The question then is, should any government reward freedom? Well, it might very well lead to that. Under the circumstances, we risk totalitarianism as a response to a display of public dissatisfaction.

History is rife with examples where similar reasons and circumstances have served opportunists to take advantage of, leading to serious perilous times.

It is a simple matter of taking a holistic view and looking beyond the healthcare aim of containment, which is arguably right, to a more balanced approach that includes economy and social impact.

Picture souce;Scientific American

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