More on revolving-door exit strategies

Currently, two days before the wearing of face masks becomes compulsory in shops, the UK tally of COVID-19 deaths has dropped to only 65 daily. Where I live, in England’s west country, there have been no deaths at all for over a fortnight. Absolutely the right time to curtail liberty, then.

Now, if you look at the science of face masks and COVID, assessments of their benefits are still up in the air, but to impose their use legally, subject to a £100 fine, suggests that the government believe them to be very effective.

One study (in the lab-based, theoretical category) suggests they reduce risk, or at least aerosol-transmission, by 75%. Another one I heard about today retrospectively studied active sufferers who returned to work, and found that none of those who wore masks caused further infections.

The point I want to make from that is, despite this supposedly highly effective preventive ability, other stringent rules remain in place: churches (as our own risk assessment shows) are unable for the foreseeable future to carry on their normal worship: the regulations even say that only one singer may do so in an indoor service, and the vicar chanting a Te Deum must do so from behind a plexiglass screen. For outdoor services, there is an unaccountable distinction between “professional singers” who may do their thing, and any others, who may not. Personally I’m not aware of singing any differently when I do it for money than when I do it in church, except that in the former case I do it more aggressively and, ergo, with more risk of spreading infection.

Schools have given up until September, shops still demand one-way systems and a host of other precautions, despite those highly effective masks. Every other aspect of life is restricted in the same way as it was before. The supposed effectiveness of masks is added to the other things, rather than making them superfluous.

Now, the holy grail held up as the final answer to COVID is a vaccine. They’re making optimistic noises about the Oxford one, but of course nothing can identify all health risks in the breakneck time-frame they’ve employed: new vaccines are potentially very harmful, which is why normally they are not rushed into general use.

But equally, no vaccine is 100% effective. The most comparable case (since no Corinavirus vaccine has ever been successfully made) is flu. But most of us don’t realise that, overall, the effectiveness of flu vaccination is only 60%. In the elderly at-risk group – the very group most endangered by COVID – it may be as low as 40%. You will note that this is a considerably lower figure than that given above for the preventive benefit of face-masks.

So it seems to me that, even were a vaccine to become available and Bill Gates were given free rein to impose it on the entire population by law, there would be little less risk than there is now, two days before masks become mandatory. Rationally, therefore, there would be no justification for relaxing any of the other restrictions on our normal life, for there would still be cases of COVID in the community, and however low those are (as now) the risk to others is considered too much to ditch restrictions.

I suppose that’s why scientific advisers to the government keep warning that the culture of handshakes is gone for good, or that it is wrong to consider anyone as having recovered from this uniquely diabolical disease, despite its still having killed only around the same number worldwide as a normal flu season, and that with widespread vaccination.

My suspicion is that, in this country at least, things will be managed no more rationally than they have been up to now. A vaccine would be used as a political magic bullet without discussing any of these matters: it would simply become the agenda no longer to report COVID deaths, and so say that theproblem is over, and that “we beat it by lockdown.” Vaccines are sciencey, and so having “followed the science” the government could quietly go back to normal, do a few whitewash enquiries, and divert the news media to bewailing the coming economic disaster caused “by COVID,” rather than “by following the science that we claimed mandated our policies without counting the costs.”

This conclusion supposes that politicians here are mainly less than competent, just as they generally lack a sound moral purpose. This is a more likely scenario than that they really are intent on introducing a new woke socialist world order, controlled by vaccines, face masks, implants and so on. The trouble is that incompetent people without a sound moral purpose are easily manipulated by those who do want those things, and who are preparared to do anything to achieve them.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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