At times like this, stats matter; just ask Neil Ferguson – though he prefers to study Staats, that being the unintentionally comic surname of Antonia, the married woman who paid him an illicit visit during lockdown and cost him his SAGE post. Whilst Prof. Ferguson seems to have a habit of plucking figures out of the air to justify his expert status, the Office for National Statistics yesterday issued some stats that don’t chime well with lockdown cheerleaders. One wonders what the response of Andy Burnham might have been to them – or, more poignantly, the owner of the Liverpool gym whose decision to resist shutting up shop and destroying his livelihood was met with an armed police presence. According to yesterday’s findings, there is precious little evidence of the much-vaunted ‘second wave’ and if the three-tier system as well as the so-called ‘circuit-breaker lockdown’ need stats to support their deployment as weapons of the State, the latest ONS figures make a mockery of everything the MSM and both sides of the House are relentlessly promoting as the only way.

According to the ONS findings, deaths in the UK are merely 1.5% above the five-year average and are following a standard trajectory for the autumn. In the week ending October 9, deaths attributed to the coronavirus rose from 321 to 438 in seven days, though overall deaths were just 143 higher than the five-year average; in fact, there were actually 19 fewer overall deaths than the same week in 2019; these figures imply the expected increase in respiratory fatalities has failed to materialise. Dr Jason Oke of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University said ‘Covid-19 plus influenza/pneumonia deaths are at 1,621 this week, while five-year average flu and pneumonia for this week is 1,600.’ Yet again, the way in which the stats assembled to validate the Government’s coronavirus measures are compiled is thrown into question – there have been 59,000 registered UK deaths ‘involving’ Covid-19, though there’s a difference between deaths ‘involving’ the virus and deaths ‘due’ to it.

These findings will probably not be broadcast loud and proud as the lead story on mainstream news bulletins; they do somewhat defuse the drama that the BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 get off on when discussing a subject that has dominated the news virtually all year. And as the ONS releases these stats, Wales and Northern Ireland are sealed-off from the rest of the UK again, whilst over in the Irish Republic – which has averaged a Covid death rate of one a day for the last three months – a six-week lockdown begins today, with all non-essential shops closing their doors, pubs and restaurants reduced to takeaways, and nobody allowed to venture more than three miles from their homes. It would seem an Irish friend of mine who has this week returned to Blighty from the Emerald Isle got out just in time. Of course, none of this is exclusive to the British Isles; similar scenes are being enacted in various countries on the European mainland, including Belgium and the Netherlands; meanwhile, honorary Eurovision contestant Israel is going through the same.

If only we’d all followed the example of New Zealand and its saintly PM Jacinda Ardern; an isolated country with a population smaller than that of Yorkshire closed its borders at the beginning of the pandemic and they remain closed, even if life within the walls of the nation has emerged from lockdown with a comparatively clean bill of health. Well, it’s no great surprise this extreme exercise has left New Zealand with a clean bill of health – even if the country’s economy is already following a more familiar pattern to the rest of the world. It goes without saying that New Zealand, which depends heavily on tourism, will have to let visitors back in at some point soon – and we all know what will happen then. Other nations – ours included – may be accused of kicking the Covid can into the far distance with every lockdown, but New Zealand’s approach has to be the most foolhardy attempt so far at sacrificing future problems for short-term political gain. Ms Ardern best bask in the glow of her recent electoral triumph while she can; it ain’t destined to last.

Back home, veteran Labour MP and former underpants-clad Gaydar member Chris Bryant has referred to any scientists disputing the wisdom of lockdowns as ‘crackpots’; at the same time, the economic legacy of Lockdown Mk. I has even caused the Bank of England to realise bears shit in the woods and the Pope is Catholic. UK unemployment could rise above the Bank’s predicted 7.5% peak, according to a member of its Monetary Policy Committee. He made this shock-horror prediction as redundancies stand at their highest for eight years – with the rate of unemployment hitting 4.5 % in the three months leading to August. During the economic crash of 2008-9, 3.3 % of the workforce lost their jobs; back in the 90s recession, the figure stood at 3.8 %. However, the Great British unemployment yardstick remains the 1980s, when the collapse of traditional heavy industry pushed jobless levels to 6.6 %.

In fact, I recently heard a fascinating documentary on Radio 4 which was a rare beast indeed by having nothing to do with Identity Politics; instead, it compared the stories of an unemployed adolescent of 2020 and a middle-aged man who was a teenager in the 80s. The latter’s experience when recalled sounded like an episode of ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’, but would have rung true for anyone who was released from the classroom into the dole office during that dismal period. It served as a much-needed reminder that things – economically – have actually been worse than they are now within living memory (as long as one happened to have been born before 1980). I guess the real worry at the moment is that we may not be there yet, but the derelict industrial wasteland Yosser Hughes nutted his way through 40 years ago could well be our ultimate destination again before all this is over.

I know it’s something of a stuck record and I really do try my best to write about other stuff between each Winegum Covid summary – basically, anything that has bugger-all to do with the coronavirus and can hopefully take your minds off it when reading as much as it does me when writing. As long as I’m taken away from this depressing narrative for the duration, it’s a minor achievement. But if it was just me holed-up in my den having to wrestle with the usual demons, I’d at least be equipped with the standard tools that I always call upon to provide a temporary fix. Where this differs is the impact it has had on respite from that tussle. My 14-year-old niece is marooned in Bolton and her Greater Manchester postcode means she can’t visit during the impending half-term; and one of my oldest and most rewarding friendships that was previously a weekly meet has now lapsed to one encounter in the last six months. Those are just my own little things – little when it comes to the bigger picture, but the abrupt loss of which has been pretty devastating to me personally.

Yet, we all have these little things; join them together and we can see one hell of a patchwork quilt of social bereavement spreading across the country like a…well…a virus. When the dust has eventually settled and some semblance of normality has asserted itself, one cannot help but wonder which will be responsible for the greater long-term damage to the delicate fabric of this country – Covid-19 or Lockdown ’20.

© The Editor

4 thoughts on “LOCKDOWN, DEEPER DOWN

  1. You have our sympathy in straining to find topics other than a random virus to fill your scripts but, just as it seems to overwhelm all other issues in play (who gives a shit about Brexit right now?), we are offered the bonus of occasional glimpses into the real politics – such as the unsubtly self-serving Andy Burnham blatantly burnishing his next mayoral election campaign at the expense of his disadvantaged electors in Manchester, which should be a precious lesson to all potential gamblers in failed poker-playing.

    This is one of those events for which there is no ‘right’ answer, that impossible balance between incalculable national economic carnage and dead grannies defies normal judgement, so whatever approach is promoted can be roundly criticised – because it can’t be ‘right’, ergo it must be ‘wrong’.

    There will be times most days when Boris & Co regret winning the last election, what fun they could have had heckling PM Jeremy Corbyn from across the floor and across the media, but they are where they are, the music stopped and they’re left clutching that toxic parcel of fate. You’ve got to smile sometimes, schadenfreude can usually lighten any darkness.

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  2. Once again in the case of NZ the (majority) of people are in favour of strict lock-downs just look at the election majority (in a proportional representation election).
    As I mentioned previously I was in Trinidad when the shit hit. They still have the borders completely closed
    Nationals abroad have had to stay where they were since March unless they get an exemption from the “minister of national security” and then hire a private charter to get them back.
    It’s a matter of risk assessment (which people are very poor at) they have, just this week, reached 100 covid deaths whereas the normal annual murder rate runs at about 500 (yes the caribbean is a dangerous place).

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    1. Re NZ, recent polls here also suggest a surprising amount of people are still pro-lockdown, presumably those of the ‘I’m alright, Jack’ persuasion. Unfortunately, it seems many cannot believe in the existence of hardship until they personally experience it. Well, if we carry on like this, it may just come their way soon enough.


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