8/12/20 - by Richard Fullerton, Branch Chair. The views of the author are his and not representative of the branch.
Many aspects of the pandemic have surprised – and disturbed - me over the past months.
The over-reaction of governments around the world to a virus that only kills approximately 0.5% of people that it infects. Not unlike flu.
The transition overnight of the UK from a democratic country to one ruled by decree.
A failure by MPs of all parties to properly hold the government to account over its shambolic – and wrong - pandemic strategy.
A pliant media, much of which went out of its way to oppose the choice of the people on Brexit, but which has let down the same people by failing to hold the government to account for its decisions and its poor handling of the crisis.
The same media which delighted in the statue smashing and Extinction Rebellion activities has also failed to speak out on the loss of our civil rights. And where is the sense of outrage over the Stasi-like behaviour of the police in anti-lockdown demonstrations?
How hospitals, to free up beds, cynically dumped 15,000 aged patients into care homes without ensuring they weren’t infected, resulting in 40% of first wave COVID deaths coming from said care homes.
The failure of the test & trace system.
A Prime Minister taken captive by the virus and SAGE, the latter of which seems to dictate government policy.
The submissive acceptance by the population of their loss of freedom and civil rights.
The politicisation of our police and its appalling behaviour towards free speech and anti-lockdown demonstrators.
All of the above are deeply disturbing. But they are all fixable, or at least just things that have happened that we must just get over. Perhaps we’ll have a truly independent and critical pandemic public inquiry, although in reality we all know what to expect. Remember the Chilcot and Hutton inquiries?
What isn’t fixable is the financial hellhole that the government has dug for us. The money that the Tories have wasted in trying to ‘defeat the virus’ is mind-boggling.
Recently, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) revealed
that at the start of the year, it expected public sector net borrowing to be £55billion in 2020-21 but now forecasts it to be £394billion. The economic journalist Christopher Snowdon explains that this ‘additional £339billion debt incurred to deal with Covid is the equivalent of £6million for every person who has died with the virus’.
Government debt will amount to 105% of GDP in 2020-21 and the OBR expects the national debt to hit £2.7trillion within four years. He goes on. ‘Make no mistake, five years from now our economy will be smaller than it was at the start of 2020…. The truth is that the Government has stared like a wild-eyed fanatic at a single disease with a fatality rate of 0.6 per cent and an average age at death of 82 years, and cast all other considerations to the wind.’
So we have borrowed, i.e. spent, £6m for every 82-yr-old who has died from COVID-19.
Let me be blunt. Does that seem a sensible policy? Does it factor in the huge cost for today’s - and tomorrow’s - taxpayer, considering the expected remaining lifespan of an 82-yr-old? I am not alone in saying this. In the debate on 1st December over the new Tier system to follow Lockdown 2, Sir Charles Walker, MP for Broxbourne, argued that “not all deaths are equal” and that young people’s freedoms and futures were being sacrificed to protect the elderly. It’s a shame, but unsurprising, that more politicians haven’t been more vocal on this.
If I seem heartless, let me ask you this. How many people do you think will die from non-COVID causes from being denied healthcare normally due to them but denied because we now have a National Covid Service and not a National Health Service? Well we have some idea. In October, the ONS released their at home excess death figures, showing that from the start of lockdown in March to September 26,000 poor souls
lost their lives because they were unable or unwilling to go to hospital. And how many will die from the impact of recession - such as increased crime, suicide, poverty? Well it has been estimated that the austerity measures introduced in the UK following the 2008 crash might have resulted in up to 150,000 excess deaths
. So go figure.
I know our politicians regularly bleat how precious life is but that’s just for presentation purposes, isn’t it? I mean if our political leaders really treasured life they’d do things like cut the national speed limit to 55mph, ban all cigarette smoking, and cut obesity by making fat people wear masks that restrict the amount of food they consume. (Why not? They make ALL of us wear masks now).
The truth is that this government, indeed most Western governments aside from countries like the USA (Trump COVID doctrine) and Sweden (common-sense doctrine), are terrified of the optics. The optics of dying patients on trolleys in hospital corridors, and the optics of coming first or near the top in the COVID death rate tables which are eagerly picked over by the media, which has lost all sense of perspective and balance.
The first, hugely damaging and far-too-long UK lockdown may have stopped the hospitals being overwhelmed but DESPITE spending £6m on every pensioner who has died from COVID, we’re near the top of the death rate table.
site which is one of the key reference sources on coronavirus statistics currently (as at 8/12) puts the UK 9th in the world with 903 deaths per 1 million population (dpm). That is worse than the USA (11th - 875dpm), France (14th - 850dpm), Sweden (25th – 711dpm), and Germany (68th - 233dpm), but better than only three similar-size and culturally similar countries: Belgium (1st - 1,497dpm), Italy (4th – 1,014dpm), and Spain (6th - 998dpm). (We can ignore the obscure small countries with worse records than us such as San Marino, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Andorra and Montenegro).
Now let’s look at GDP forecasts. The OBR ‘now predicts [UK] GDP falling by between 10.6 per cent and 12 per cent in 2020, the equivalent of the Great Recession of 2008-09 occurring twice in one year’.
This is worse than other major worldwide economies. Before the OBR update, it was reported
in November that ‘the UK economy is 9.7% smaller than it was before the crisis began, but the US is only 3.5% smaller. France is 4.1% down, Germany is 4.2% down, and Spain is 9.1% down’.
The take-out? We’ve decimated our economy to levels much worse than comparable others to ‘save lives’ but actually have one of the worst death rates. Oh, and Trump has been vindicated in his COVID doctrine.
Saving granny has not only come at a huge cost. It has also failed.