by Miriam Cates
Monday, 14
June 2021
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09:41

Delaying Liberation Day sets a dangerous precedent

What other freedoms will the Government curtail in response to new risks?
by Miriam Cates
Miriam Cates MP

‘Following the science’ is an attractive idea to politicians, as it appears to absolve them of responsibility — but we cannot ‘follow science’ any more than we can ‘follow history’. Science provides us with information and understanding but it can’t give us the wisdom we need to make moral decisions about what’s in the best interests of society as a whole.

As we contemplate sliding in to yet another extension of serious legal curtailments to our lives, our livelihoods and our freedom, it’s time to ask if we have travelled too far down this road.

Pursuing a ‘Common Good’ approach is something that we have struggled to do over the last year. Constant media coverage has led us to become myopic in our approach to managing the pandemic, dazzled by an abundance of Covid data and blind to the wider implications of the measures we are taking.

Our preoccupation with Covid has caused — or perhaps exposed — a significant shift in public attitudes towards life and death. We’ve come to see death as something that should be prevented even in old age, no matter the cost to our way of life, and held the Government responsible when it isn’t. We’ve placed insufficient emphasis on the long term impact of lockdowns on young peoples’ lives (from poverty, lost opportunity, loneliness, online harms) and focused far too narrowly on the short term impact of Covid on the longevity of older people.

This is a significant departure from the way that we have addressed other, far more serious threats in the past. We have compared the pandemic to fighting a war, but during Covid, we have sacrificed our collective freedom to save individual lives; in war, we sacrifice individual lives to save our collective freedom.

We do not live just to avoid death. The meaning of our lives does not come principally from their length, but from our relationships, our responsibilities, our successes and our failures. Death, especially in old age, is a normal part of life and, while of course every death is a sadness, it does not follow that we should sacrifice those things that make life worth living for the sake of a short increase in longevity.

I am deeply uncomfortable with this shift and it threatens our social contract, which should balance the needs of young and old, present and future, and in the past has placed a high value on freedom and personal responsibility. We need to restore a sense of perspective and see Covid for what it is; an infectious disease that is no longer a significant threat to the British public as a whole and is here to stay.

But what’s another four weeks after 16 months of restrictions? Surely it’s better to be safe than sorry?

For a weary population, desperate to see the back of all things Covid, it’s easy to see the appeal of these arguments. But if the serious restrictions that we face are now out of proportion to the threat, then we are setting a dangerous precedent. What other freedoms will we allow the Government to curtail in response to new risks? Should we be locked down in a bad flu season? Where there are other threats to our national health — obesity or diabetes for instance — will we allow ourselves and our behaviour to be tracked and traced?

And what can we hope to achieve by continuing with the restrictions? If case rates don’t fall, does that mean that the measures will be renewed again? The Government has said that it is not pursuing a ‘Zero Covid’ strategy, but that the goal is for the disease to become endemic and manageable, like seasonal flu, a constantly mutating disease that causes many thousands of deaths per year. With the Covid death rate now low, and vaccination uptake high, it could be argued that we have already achieved this goal.

I am deeply concerned about the implications of postponing ‘Liberation Day’; history teaches us never to be complacent about the erosion of individual freedoms by the State. But my hope is that the delay will spark a passionate national debate that removes the blinkers of Covid and awakens a desire to return to life in all its fullness.

Miriam Cates is MP for Penistone and Stockbridge

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Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
1 year ago

This is a good article and makes very salient points. If they extend for another 4 weeks for the pathetic reasons they are giving us now, we can bet on it that there will be another excuse dug up to continue a ‘little’ more when the next ‘freedom day’ comes. I have come to the worrying conclusion that this is no longer all about the virus and but about ensuring mass vaccinations, even for those for whom this experimental jab can result in serious side effects far greater than any risk the covid virus posed to them. I am talking about the push to vaccinate increasingly younger cohort. Never before have basic bio ethics been so summarily ignored. If this virus posed such a great threat to the vast majority – thank goodness, as the statistics prove, it doesn’t – this appalling government (I can’t decide if they are naive muppets or plain wicked) and their cheerleaders in the press would not have had to propagandise the population with 24/7 fear porn and threats along with mass testing of healthy people with dodgy tests to ramp up the ‘case’ figures.

Last edited 1 year ago by Glyn Reed
David Slade
David Slade
1 year ago

The Lockdowns were ethically indefensible in the first instance – they would never pass a cost benefits analysis, and sacrificing the futures of the young (and in the developing world their very lives through poverty and starvation) to save the elderly is morally obscene.

However, having set the precedent back in March of last year, there are no more hurdles for the government to overcome. We will be stuck with this for some time now – three weeks to flatten the curve has already turned in to an ongoing quasi religious crusade to normalise dystopia.

To add insult to injury, the virtue signalling idiots that make up the decision makers probably genuinely believed this is altruism. After all, it’s saving lives….or the NHS …or, something. Who knows.

I now think they just don’t care – they’re doing this because they can.

James Chater
James Chater
1 year ago
Reply to  David Slade

‘…sacrificing the futures of the young (and in the developing world their very lives through poverty and starvation) to save the elderly is morally obscene.’ Quite a statement. As is ‘…three weeks to flatten the curve has already turned in to an ongoing quasi religious crusade to normalise dystopia.’
Hyperbole does have its ‘wake-up-and-listen’ uses but this is little more than gratuitous nonsense. The hard utilitarian CBA mindset is chilling.

Last edited 1 year ago by James Chater
David Slade
David Slade
1 year ago
Reply to  James Chater

If I could rationalise this response any other way then , believe me, I would – I do not gladly embrace cynicism about the motives of political leaders – and I would love to be wrong.

But the facts remain – there is no precedent for the lockdown, despite the relative commonality of the threat (that’s the threat as oppose to the virus, which is novel). The fact so many have accepted lockdown inspite of this fact is indeed normalising.

Meanwhile UNICEF and the IMF have produced the stats on the children being put at risk of starvation and the numbers put back in to extreme poverty around the world. The fact that this is to contain a disease (clearly without success), that kills people who are – on average – at or above the life expectancy in developed nations, does suggest morally reprehensible priorities.

If the language of reason and statistics worked than it would have done so already – the pro lockdown/new normal crowd don’t have much morally or logically to stand on. But, it makes no difference.

Hyperbolic gratuitousness it’ll have to be.

James Chater
James Chater
1 year ago
Reply to  David Slade

Obviously this ‘libertarian’ Tory Government do not want to destroy the economy. They do not want to ‘control’ people for no good reason. (The reason why Boris Johnson gets so much flack from his own party.)
‘The relative commonality of the threat… as opposed to the virus, which is novel’? Forgive my slowness but I don’t follow. Yes, if the virus was not so easily transmissable; if only those who displayed symptoms were infectious, then clearly we would be in different place and national lockdowns wouldn’t be so common. Without a cure for viral pneumonia, so easily spread, I can’t get my head round any alternative than to stop people interacting temporarily.
Those staying at home, if they can, are not morally culpable. It seems rational and responsible.

David Slade
David Slade
1 year ago
Reply to  James Chater

The threat of highly transmissible respiratory virus’ with mortality above normal seasonal influenza is relatively common. There was a Europe wide bad season in 2018; the death rate was as high in the UK in 1999 as it was in 2020 (non age adjusted); a pandemic influenza went around the world killing a similar percentage of the human race in 1968 as have died with Covid etc.

What is unusual is that we don’t discard all other considerations of mental and physical health to deal with them. Nor do we practice emotional blackmail to ensure compliance; suspend human freedoms; destroy economic prosperity/quality of life (with the associated impact on mortality).

You imply the rationale for this is asymptomatic transmission.If we had good evidence of significant asymptomatic transmission it still wouldn’t justify the above. As it happens, it can more accurately be described as shaky evidence of negligible transmission.

Finally, I don’t think you’re morally culpable for any of the collateral harms of lockdown as a member of the public following the rules (as a scientist recommending them ; a psychologist enabling them or a politician mandating them, certainly). That same courtesy hasn’t been extended to rule breakers though – who have had to endure the ‘look this unemployed actor in the eyes and tell him why you went for coffee and killed granny’ etc.

When it comes to gratuitous hyperbole, lockdown lovers take first; second and third prize.

James Chater
James Chater
1 year ago
Reply to  David Slade

Yes the threat of highly transmissable respiratory disease is relatively common. But SARS -CoV-2, Covid-19 is seen as particularly transmissable and therefore deadly – like the 1918 pandemic.
Comparing SARS-CoV-2 with SARS-CoV and influenza pandemics – The Lancet Infectious Diseases
We know in the UK that due to various factors we have been badly affected.
I cannot accept the implication that figures are invented, made up just to keep citizens under control or something. What would be the motive for making it all up or exaggeration?

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
1 year ago
Reply to  James Chater

I wouldn’t call members of the public ‘morally culpable’ for staying at home if they are afraid. However, if they are vaccinated, have had covid-19 and therefore gained immunity or are young for the risks of serious illness to be negligible, then they are not rational or sensible either; not even if they think that they are protecting others who may be vulnerable as the vast majority of the vulnerable have been vaccinated or have chosen not to be.

James Chater
James Chater
1 year ago

I am over 50 with asthma. I have had two doses of the vaccine. I live in an area where just 50% of adults have had one dose and 30% both. The rate of infection is way over the national average.
I remember the 1999 flu epidemic, which this cannot really be compared to as we are in a pandemic situation. However my attitude then would no doubt be similar to many younger people today – chances of getting seriously ill minimal.
Of course like anyone else I wish the thing would go away so I could walk around without constant low-level anxiety.

Last edited 1 year ago by James Chater
Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
1 year ago
Reply to  James Chater

Your anxiety is understandable but it is not following the science and it is not reasonable. With the vaccine you are over 90% protected, which means that in the highly unlikely event you catch the virus, your symptoms are likely to be less than 10% as serious as they might have been.
Moreover, given that it’s a choice between you (and others who feel the same) and everyone, wouldn’t you be prepared to self-quarantine in order to let other people return to freedom and to save the economy for all of us, including you?
To offer you a little reassurance (and yes, only a very little), look at the statistics for India: a population almost 23 times as large as the UK’s has had less than 3 times as many deaths. Yet the Indian/Delta 4 variation began there. And while the statistics from India may be unreliable, they are what the entire narrative around the Delta 4 variation is based on. https://www.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6
Furthermore, if healthy young people contract the virus, they will gain immunity, which will protect us all in the long run against other variations that might be more deadly because, like the vaccines, even if the immunity gained isn’t perfectly adapted to the new strain, it will offer some degree of immunity to it.

James Chater
James Chater
1 year ago

Anxiety never ‘follows the science’ does it? (That’s my problem though.)
The latest stats I saw suggested 2 doses offered 80% protection after 2-3 weeks. Thankfully I am now at that stage. But, naturally I wouldn’t want to see hospitals overwhelmed again due to the number of people yet to be vaccinated. (I wouldn’t know what to say to older people who refuse to get vaccinated.)
Re self-quarantine and ‘saving the economy’ – the only thing I’m not doing which I used to do is going to pubs during the day at weekends. Maybe for my own health considerations that isn’t a bad thing?
Clearly this issue, coinciding with existent divisions has become much more fraught, toxic and politicised had it happened even 7-5 years ago. (Arguably, if it had occurred then there would have been much more serious illness & death – working from home wouldn’t have been feasible for so many…)
I as an individual citizen have no power to change public health policy. The only thing I can do is to try and act responsibly and yes, rationally.

Last edited 1 year ago by James Chater
Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
1 year ago
Reply to  James Chater

Anxiety in your case is not following the science. Sometimes is would do so, no doubt, and sometimes tossing a coin would do so. For the rest you’re just going round in circles. Good luck.

Sarah Johnson
Sarah Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  James Chater

The hard utilitarian viewpoint that letting people die of poverty and starvation is bad is chilling? You are an ideologue willing to sacrifice lives, freedoms, and sanity in pursuit of an unattainable goal and you dare say someone else’s mindset is chilling?!

James Chater
James Chater
1 year ago
Reply to  Sarah Johnson

Save the ire. Get some manners please – I don’t know ‘you’; ‘you’ don’t know me.

Last edited 1 year ago by James Chater
David Slade
David Slade
1 year ago
Reply to  James Chater

Gotta say, in terms of ‘ire’,you did very much start it.

James Chater
James Chater
1 year ago
Reply to  David Slade

Yes OK, maybe.
.

Last edited 1 year ago by James Chater
Sarah Johnson
Sarah Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  James Chater

I see you have no substantive response to the moral argument I made.

James Chater
James Chater
1 year ago
Reply to  Sarah Johnson

‘Moral argument’? For me to answer? Where? Aim the indignation elsewhere, maybe?

Last edited 1 year ago by James Chater
Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
1 year ago

Covid is spreading but people are not dying therefore people are gaining immunity: a process that lockdown impedes thus retarding herd immunity. This has been the case since late February.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
1 year ago

Great article Miriam, thank you so much for speaking up. Please continue fighting in Parliament. Everyone knows that it is never “just 4 weeks” as many other “temporary” measures have shown so far.
Measuring the covid pandemic in “cases” is a complete disaster. First of all, the number of tests made can be manipulated at will. Second, it does not reflect the severity of those cases.
The “Zero Covid” obsession is very dangerous. Thank you again for going against all thie madness.

Peter LR
Peter LR
1 year ago

Thanks, Miriam; tell Boris many of us are not happy with his lack of courage. Average daily deaths of 9 need to be set against the daily build up of debt and deterioration of the social quality of life. Lockdown is calculated to cost £500 million a day. What’s happened to his Churchillian embracing of risk?

Last edited 1 year ago by Peter LR
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago

Spot on.

James Rix
James Rix
1 year ago

“We have compared the pandemic to fighting a war, but during Covid, we have sacrificed our collective freedom to save individual lives; in war, we sacrifice individual lives to save our collective freedom.”
I haven’t seen the trade off we are making put better than this throughout the whole pandemic.
Brilliant article from an MP I had truly never heard of, but I will keep an eye out for.

Thanks for sharing your views.

Sarah Johnson
Sarah Johnson
1 year ago

Great article by Miriam, but I think she misses a reason why Boris doesn’t want to declare victory: once the crisis is over its a lot harder to make excuses for why there shouldn’t be an inquiry into the failings of the Covid response.

Pete Stobbs
Pete Stobbs
1 year ago

 Miriam. Please watch this:
Dr. Robert Malone is the inventor of mRNA Vaccine technology.
Mr. Steve Kirsch is a serial entrepreneur who has been researching adverse reactions to COVID vaccines.
Dr. Bret Weinstein is an evolutionary biologist.
Bret talks to Robert and Steve about the pandemic, treatment and the COVID vaccines.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_NNTVJzqtY&t=29s&ab_channel=BretWeinstein

stuart7
stuart7
1 year ago
Reply to  Pete Stobbs

YouTube says that this video has been ‘Removed for violating their community guidelines’ What is the world coming to? Is there any other way of seeing this???

Last edited 1 year ago by stuart7
Kathryn Dwyer
Kathryn Dwyer
1 year ago

Absolutely agree with Miriam Cates. Pity she’s not the PM

James Chater
James Chater
1 year ago

My understanding is that the ‘roadmap’ was always going to use data and not dates as the guide. Don’t we all know that this disease, especially the latest variant, is putting lots of younger people in hospital? Isn’t it the huge numbers in hospital, as well as the deaths, which makes it so devastating?
If the Government have veered towards the ‘date’ – ‘freedom day’ – (as if the ‘lockdown’ was for any other purpose than reducing the spread) and allowed the media to somehow decide the course of action – then typically, they have failed in the basic practical politics of governing. Now they are going back to what they announced originally earlier in the year, as they should do.

Last edited 1 year ago by James Chater
Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
1 year ago
Reply to  James Chater

People are not dying in drastic numbers due to the vaccines and immune systems being able to cope naturally. Hospitals are not overwhelmed. The two reasons for locking down no longer exist. The government is not following the data, it is terrified and is acting out of fear.

James Chater
James Chater
1 year ago

Everyone knows this is so difficult. But, surely after what we’ve been through – hospitals can fill very quickly – the government is doing what is only natural. Being prudent and cautious.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
1 year ago
Reply to  James Chater

It can be seen that way, if you have faith in the government. But that still doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do it. Prudence and caution are not necessarily better than reason based decisions.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
1 year ago
Reply to  James Chater

It only seems “prudent and cautious” if you completely ignore all the collateral damage caused by these measures. Also, there is still very little evidence that these measures actually work.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 year ago

I’m late to this discussion, but surely you realise that what is happening *now* is not what convinces the govt to delay the end of lockdown, but what (plausibly) might be happening in three or four weeks? If cases are doubling over short periods, it wouldn’t take fear so much as common sense to take the decision. Even if only 1000 new admissions and a dozen deaths a day are what is happening now…

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
1 year ago

Yes, but by delaying they are / have been for months preventing natural immunity being acquired by substantial (young) parts of the population. This would be better than relying on the vaccines because: it’s known that there are a negligible number of re-infected cases globally so naturally immunity is very strong; the risk of long-term harm from the vaccines would be prevented (a very important consideration for the young especially); lockdown would have ended sooner because herd immunity would have been acquired sooner; the other harms resultant from lockdown would have been avoided more and the economic damage would have been reduced.
It is still the case and will remain the case for years that a new mutation could result in a more deadly strand of the virus evolving. This will be the case at least until the entirety of humanity has gained immunity through either natural means or through vaccination. Delaying for a month won’t change that, if anything it will further reduce the chances of natural immunity being acquired and thus increase the risks to the young if/when another strain of the virus reaches our shores.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jonathan Ellman