March 25, 2022 - 9:37am

The past two days have seen sorties from scientists desperate to shore up the lockdown version of history. Lockdowns were necessary, and anyone who disagrees does not care about society or equality. This version of history is so fraudulent that it cannot be allowed to triumph.

Writing in the Guardian yesterday, Devi Sridhar asks: ‘Why can’t some scientists just admit they were wrong about Covid?’ Why indeed? Sridhar notes that scientists have divided into opposing camps, taking ‘particular pandemic positions
eventually building a base of followers that organise around that position and defend it viciously.’ She just doesn’t seem to recognise that this neatly describes her own approach.

Sridhar’s piece is a craven attempt to rewrite history by claiming that the Zero Covid position was only ever intended for the pre-vaccine era. Can this be the same Sridhar who said in a New Statesman interview in January 2021 that ‘the better option is to eliminate the virus’ – even after vaccines had started to be rolled out? Or who tweeted in June 2020 that ‘the fastest way to get economy & normal life back is to push for a ZERO Covid Britain. Clear virus, build domestic economy’? Still, as far as Sridhar’s concerned, if anyone got anything wrong, it wasn’t her.

Sridhar’s efforts to rewrite history were joined by a prominent member of Independent SAGE, Kit Yates. Writing in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday, Yates penned an op-ed on the theme “Was lockdown necessary?” Lockdowns, according to Yates, were necessary to protect the NHS and the vulnerable members of society — and yet at the same time ‘no one is in favour of lockdowns’. This sleight of hand followed his tweet in February that ‘everyone is lockdown sceptic’.

Have we all been dreaming about the vituperative onslaught on sceptical voices in the last two years? The answer becomes clearer in the last paragraph of the BMJ piece, where Yates concludes:

Whether you view [lockdowns] as necessary depends on your value system. Many people would place the lives of the most vulnerable high on their list of priorities. Many people would value a functioning NHS with equal access for all at the point of need. Many would place a high worth on the long term health of their population. But not everyone.
- Kit Yates, BMJ

Sadly for Yates, his article was published on the very day that Sir Chris Whitty admitted that the long-term health of children had suffered and their life expectancies were lower through increasing obesity brought on by lockdowns. With NHS cancer backlogs projected to last for a decade, it doesn’t seem that this “long-term health of the population” and “protecting the NHS” works out very well for Yates and his ilk.

This is why the strongest advocates of lockdowns such as Sridhar and Yates cannot be allowed to set the tone of the debate as we move away from the pandemic. Strong lockdowns promoted policies that were utterly uncaring of the young, the elderly in care homes, women in abusive situations, the poor whose work disappeared, let alone the hundreds of millions of people whose livelihoods have been destroyed in the Global South.

Meanwhile, 40% of Covid deaths in the West took place in care homes. Far from protecting the vulnerable, lockdown policies did not even protect the most vulnerable. Meanwhile, they have rendered hundreds of millions of people newly vulnerable. That is their legacy, and those who advocated hardest for them must not be allowed to escape it.

Toby Green is a Professor of History at King’s College, London. The updated edition of his book, The Covid Consensus, co-authored with Thomas Fazi, is published by Hurst.