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IPFS News Link • United Kingdom

Why The UK Government Now Must, But Won't, Abandon Lockdown

•, by David Campbell

His delight has been all but universally shared by the national media, with William Hague's leading article in The Daily Telegraph claiming that the Government 'has rediscovered how to succeed' being representative. 

All this, however, takes the level of incomprehension of the Government's Covid policy by the media, the public and the Government itself to a new height, or depth. The setting and hitting of this target was possible only because the Government effectively suspended the policy of suppressing or even – it is amazing to say that one cannot be clear what the aim has been – eliminating or eradicating Covid-19 throughout the entire UK population. It instead did what it should have done at the outset by focusing its effort on the vulnerable, and I shall focus on the most numerous group, the vulnerable aged. Those in care homes are but the first of four categories of those over 70 to which priority has been given.

Were it to be capable of learning from its 'achievement,' the Government should now self-consciously abandon the policy aimed at the entire population, the most important part of which would be to end lockdown, tiers, and all such general restrictions. But this would require the Government to acknowledge that its policy has been a mistake from the outset, and the general lack of capacity the Government has shown includes a lack of capacity to make such an acknowledgement. One has to fear that the mistaken policy has become 'reflexive,' in that the magnitude of the government's failure has itself become the major obstacle to the government being able to acknowledge that failure.

When the UK Government became aware of the Covid-19 virus, it was obliged to make a decision with extremely imperfect knowledge. In part the imperfection was of knowledge of the organism itself. Though knowledge of human coronaviruses has accumulated over more than 50 years, Covid-19 was very likely only recently existent and certainly only recently known to UK and worldwide epidemiology. But much more important was the imperfection of knowledge of what sensibly could be done. A policy aimed at the entire population was from the outset bound to impose burdens on the Government's capacity to formulate in detail and implement a policy unprecedented in the history of the modern state. All that could be said at the outset was that the costs of such a policy would be immense, certainly greater than those of any other peacetime policy ever adopted.