COVID Lockdowns would have always failed & my Brownstone review of 400 studies showed the NPIs failures, The Telegraph's Jeremy Warner substantiates this "Only now are the appalling costs of the

by Paul Alexander

pandemic becoming clear; Lockdown's lasting impact on the nation is plain to see now that the fog of war is gone"

Word to Warner: ‘we always knew but thanks that you are now up to steam.’

‘Who knew? Nearly three and a half years after Covid-19 first appeared on the scene, the World Health Organisation has declared the pandemic officially over.


Late to recognise Covid as a pandemic, the WHO has also been late to acknowledge that thanks in large measure to Western medicines and vaccines, it is also now essentially part of history.

Perhaps that's because of the continued influence of China, which only very recently abandoned its zero-Covid policy.

As long as a major economy was still imprisoning its citizens at the slightest sign of infection, then I suppose it was indeed hard to declare the disease no longer a public health emergency.

For most of us, the pandemic has nevertheless been over for a long time now. 

The grimly dispiriting legacy is, however, still very much with us. 

In the UK, the national debt is a fifth of GDP higher than it was, inflation has soared to double digits, economically sub-optimal work from home remains deeply entrenched, labour shortages abide, and many people still complain of long term sickness – much of it unrelated to Covid as such but seemingly triggered by the pandemic's deprivations – with record numbers claiming out of work benefits.

The Government's response to Covid always looked to me like a ruinous over-reaction, and I became something of a lockdown sceptic.

I say “something of” because in the initial stages of the pandemic – call it the “we're all going to die” phase – something fairly dramatic was obviously called for, watching the TV images of emergency hospitals being built in Wuhan and overwhelmed ICU units in Northern Italy.

Politically, it would have been virtually impossible for the UK to have stood alone in remaining open even as virtually the whole of the rest of Europe was closing down. 

The Government would have fallen within weeks if it had stood by and done nothing. 

Even Sweden, which seems to have got its approach about right, eventually implemented a watered down version of the restrictions imposed elsewhere.

Instinctively, Boris Johnson, then Prime Minister, was against lockdown, preferring instead the idea of “herd immunity”, but then he became seriously ill himself, and ended up fully embracing the made-in-China response.

For some, such as the former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption – who would regularly warn of police state authoritarianism – the objection was on principled libertarian grounds.

This was, however, very much a minority position. One of the most remarkable things about the whole sorry affair is quite how compliant the country proved, and how quickly we succumbed to instruction. 

Somewhat alarmingly, it turned out that supposedly freedom loving societies are remarkably willing to submit to authoritarian rule, especially if paid to stay at home, as was the case with furlough in the UK. 

Even the Government was surprised by the obedience.

Yet it was always abundantly clear that these were essentially temporary, wartime measures that would be lifted once the emergency was over, so on those grounds at least, most of us were initially willing to go along with the heavy handed approach imposed.

No, what worried me was not so much the loss of liberty as the economic impact, and once the case mortality rate was confirmed at less than 1 percent for advanced economies, the lack of proportionality and cost benefit consideration. 

I could never quite accept the argument that what was being done was similar to putting the economy into a medically induced coma, with the patient reawoken as if nothing had happened once the pandemic was over. 

As we can now see, the lasting damage was monumental.

It would no doubt have been disastrous had the health service been overwhelmed, but when the main justification for lockdown becomes the rallying call of “protect the NHS” you have to ask yourself what the whole thing was really all about. 

Insulating the health service from a sickness it is there to treat?

You cannot put a price on life, it can be argued, and therefore almost any cost is justified. It is also true that in the fog of war, mistakes are bound to be made; over-reaction is possibly better than under-reaction.

All the same, it now seems abundantly clear that the treatment was in many ways worse than the disease itself. We'll never know the counterfactual, or just how many lives were saved by imposing a strict series of lockdowns.

Most epidemiologists will tell you that it was a lot. 

But they are not paid to think about the wider consequences, and it is now patently clear that the lasting damage to education, the economy and to wider public health was off the scale.

What are the lessons? We don't need to wait for the results of the official inquiry, still years away, to know some of the answers. 

Let's make a start by examining the death toll, reported on a daily basis during the pandemic as if in some kind of international competition for how effectively each country was dealing with the crisis.

For a long time, Britain seemed to be bottom of the class, which in turn instructed the severity of the counter measures thought necessary. 

The worse the numbers looked relative to others, the more draconian and prolonged the restrictions became.

Given differing methodologies and reporting systems, the best way of measuring the impact is not through recorded deaths from Covid, but via the excess death rate over and above what would normally be expected. 

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson's early calls for ‘herd immunity’ were reversed as the UK followed its neighbours into lockdowns CREDIT: Toby Melville / WPA Pool / Getty Images

On this measure, most major advanced economies ended up in much the same place.

Britain was slightly worse than Germany and France, but not significantly so, and actually quite a bit better than Italy and Spain, according to estimates published in the Lancet. 

This was not the impression you got at the time, when the British response was widely viewed as uniquely incompetent. 

What is more, Scotland did worse than England, notwithstanding the plaudits the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, received for outbidding Westminster on the countermeasures needed. 

The same is true of Wales, whose first minister, Mark Drakeford, was similarly lauded for a more restrictive and therefore seemingly capable approach. 

Well, not according to the numbers.

Culture wars, I'm afraid to say, are as likely to determine your view of the efficacy of lockdown as the underlying facts of the matter.

What we now know, however, is that lockdown is an extraordinarily costly way of dealing with a pandemic. 

It is to be hoped that this lesson at least has been learned, and that the response to future pandemics will therefore be better calibrated to the severity of the disease. 

A 1pc case mortality rate scarcely seems to justify what was done, even if it was admittedly much higher in older age cohorts.

A more consensual approach that keeps people properly informed but allows them to make their own choices on the degree of risk they are prepared to run must be the way forward.’