I shall not dwell on the various hypotheses about the alleged responsibility of Mr. Soros and Mr. Gates for the virus. I shall leave them to those who have a vested interest of one kind or another.
I shall not pronounce upon the technical expertise of epidemiologists, simply because I lack the expertise to do so. However, I shall comment on the logic or lack of it in their arguments presented to the public or are simply assumed without being argued.
However, I would like to comment on the mentality of both government and public as revealed by their words and actions. I shall also pay attention to the longer term consequences of their attitudes, opinions and behaviour.
I shall start with an unexpected plea for leniency towards those experts. Although the new virus is related to previously-known viral conditions, the particular virus was new and previously unknown. Their initial mistakes were easily understandable and can be forgiven. They could not have known of the comparable ease with which the virus might pass on hard surfaces compared with through the air or vice versa. Equally, opinions have changed about the importance or lack of it of wearing face masks in different circumstances. I do not doubt their sincerity or conscientiousness in carrying out their employment duties, because I have no reason to do so. However, I do not believe that experts are immune to pressures of personal interest, desire for an unsullied reputation and a need for applause among the public.
I do not doubt the sincerity of government or opposition in wishing to see the pandemic defeated. However, both are motivated by a complex network of underlying motivations and interests too.
There was clear evidence that the virus was and is, being spread by children of all age groups. However, it was felt that the damage of closing all schools, in the second lock-down, would be too great. There was very little evidence that it was being spread by the hospitality sector, particularly pubs. However, there is a certain element of virtue signalling in closing them. It could be said that publicans were and are the whipping boys for the actions of children. We cannot close schools but we can close pubs and restaurants instead.
I suspect that there are deeper psychological attitudes to alcohol and enjoyment that have surfaced during this pandemic. In comparatively unsophisticated times (probably only a few hundred years), great misfortunes such as a plague were considered as a divine punishment for wrong-doing or lack of observance to the instructions of the Deity. As far as I know, nobody has said such a thing about the present pandemic. However, there is a feeling that enjoyment is inappropriate when people are ill or (in a small minority of cases) dying.
There is absolutely no evidence that the consumption of alcohol enhances the risk of catching the virus, although the behaviour it induces in unregulated places might facilitate it. There is no evidence that consumption of food with alcohol, reduces the threat from the virus. However, some places have been forbidden from selling alcohol or doing so only if served with food – an unknown quantity of scotch eggs.
An underlying belief that is rarely articulated but widely believed by the bien pensants, is that pubs that sell only drink are unpleasant places, frequented by unsavoury people, where unacceptable opinions are voiced and there is always a threat of violence. The distinction between pubs that serve primarily food and only secondarily alcohol are rather more respectable places, frequented by rather more respectable people.
Once people are appointed to a body (such as SAGE) that is commissioned to advise the Government, they are not going to reassure the Government that everything will be all right. If your job is to look out for danger, you are not going to say that there is none or very little! If things go well, your position will be considered unnecessary. If you reassure Government and things go badly, you will be considered to have been negligent and even responsible for the ensuing deaths and illnesses. It is true that Professor Ferguson was found to have over-predicted the possible number of deaths in the first wave. However, the criticism that he suffered was far less than it would have been if he had seriously underestimated the number.
Governments, once warned of the need to take extreme measures to curb (actually only delay) the virus, cannot afford to reject that advice, because the Opposition will project them as uncaring callous or worse. Equally oppositions cannot criticise the Government for over-reacting because they will be considered to be indifferent and unfit to become the Government.
Experts, Government and Opposition are in the position of children who are competitively trying to make the roundabout go faster and faster. In the end, they all succeed in putting it out of the control of any of them.
Now let us turn to the ordinary people, the general population of adults. The opinion polls have indicated a high level of acceptance, at least in their answers to the pollsters, if not always in their personal behaviour. We could refer to Dominic Cummings and Professor Ferguson but I shall refer to neither of them by name. Whoops!
Of course, we have not been privy to the loaded wording of the questions asked of those polled.
The level of restriction is far greater than existed in either World War or civil emergency. When have people been instructed by Government not to invite their neighbours into their homes. Indeed, it is a case of Shun Thy Neighbour rather than Love Thy Neighbour.
There is a high level of perceived obedience to the diktats of government that is unprecedented. We stand to pay the price of this obedience in the future.
There is no doubt that the Government (and all future governments) will have observed that level of (perceived) obedience. When a future government decides to forbid more than six people from meeting or to meeting people from other households for political rather than medical reasons, that government will be obeyed.
As Lord Sumption, the retired Justice of the Supreme Court, said, tyrannies do not simply take power by themselves. They are invited to do so by the people, who have been told that it is in their interest.
I am not arguing that there should not have been any restrictions. There was initially a prospect of the National Health Service being overwhelmed and anything that delayed (not prevented) that spread, enabled the NHS to catch up. Nightingale hospitals were opened, though not staffed, and therefore underused or even unused. However, closure of large sections of the economy and our society were carried out without regard to cost, unemployment, our social relationships or even their efficacy. The Government has only partly been led by science. Government, Opposition and the official scientists have been led by emotive arguments and self-interested caution.
Governments, health services, medical academics and pharmaceutical manufacturers have realised the importance of developing vaccines and finally appear to have been successful in doing so, in ten months instead of the usual ten years. All of them deserve credit for that.