“There are some scientists who have absolutely loved being media stars for the first time and they don’t want to stop. We don’t hear as much from the paediatricians, disease physicians, academic virologists and the immunologists who really know about these things.” (says Professor Allyson Pollock.)
Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said many prominent Covid voices have never written papers on infectious diseases. “It’s like me deciding, ‘I did a course on health and economics a year ago: maybe I should set up a group advising the chancellor on how to manage the tax system.’”
Everything the government has got right on Covid-19 in the past 12 months has happened when it ignored ‘the science’. If the modellers hadn’t made such fools of themselves in the summer and autumn of 2021 they might have been taken more seriously by the government in the winter. As it was, their incompetence had seeded enough doubt in Johnson’s mind for him to resist going beyond ‘Plan B’ despite almost every ‘scenario’ modelled telling him that hospitalisations and deaths from the virus would exceed anything England had ever seen before.
Boris Johnson has announced the end of all Covid measures introduced to combat the Omicron variant from next week, including compulsory mask-wearing on public transport and in shops, guidance to work from home and vaccine certificates.
‘Masks were a softening up exercise for Plan B,’ according to a government whistleblower. He told me that while there is little appetite in the Cabinet for a full lockdown, Covid Passes are ‘oven-baked’ and ready to go.
In my opinion, the UK government’s Winter Plan was always about Plan B. It displayed a classic ‘foot-in-the-door’ strategy – the raison d’être of Plan A was to prepare you for Plan B. Now winter is upon us, and the nudges fall in a flurry of torpefying snowflakes. Worst case scenarios, big numbers, salutary stories in the media, threats and cajolements are directed at us daily. Plan B is in motion as calls for working from home are heard from the usual suspects and we hear the Cabinet is divided on Covid Passes.
This seasoned government insider plays a key role on a Covid task force and has decided to speak out now because he is disturbed by the unethical reasons for mandating masks. Firstly, ‘It’s a highly political move to reset the Johnson administration’s orientation after bad polling over sleaze and corruption. If Omicron turns out to be super-bad and the public ask what the government did about it, the answer is we implemented masks. The one-way systems, plexiglass screens and masks are to give you an illusion of the government doing something. It’s just theatre. There is no evidence base or proportionality in favour of masks.’
Plan B is a go. And just like that, more mask mandates, working from home guidance and, most controversially, vaccine passports have been rushed in. While we wait, of one thing we can be certain: Covid decisions this winter are once again being determined by one institution. While we wait to find out more about the omicron variant, there is one thing we can say with certainty: our future rests once again on the ability of the National Health Service to handle an uptick in cases.
…Yet the NHS has a guilty little secret, rarely talked about given its status as the national religion. On many metrics, capacity has not been rising – it’s actually been falling.