The New Observer UK Society Protect the vulnerable

Protect the vulnerable

This is really a follow-on from my last post discussing the arguments for lockdown v. focus on protecting the vulnerable.

This is an article by Craig Murray arguing for a selective and focussed approach – the argument is pretty simple. Covid-19 is really (a small number of exceptions aside) only a mortal threat for people over 70. The harm done to everyone else by shutting down society and the economy is massive. But for the majority of adults Covid-19 will be a mild illness. It is a serious argument and demands being taken seriously.

Against it there is one problem – not considered by Craig. Or, rather, he seems to assume that the seclusion of the elderly will be temporary. But it might not be. Even if/when a vaccine (or several vaccines) are found they may not give 100% protection. Not everyone will get vaccinated. There may be cases of vaccine acquired immunity fading. There could be problems with virus mutation. It is likely that even after a vaccine is found the virus will continue to circulate in the general population – as flu viruses do today. The “let it rip while protecting the elderly” approach has the problem that it will have to protect the elderly for ever. That is; what is, in fact, proposed is that the elderly and vulnerable are pemanently secluded. Most people might see this as undesirable.

Craig partly answers this, it seems. He suggests that such seclusion should be a matter of personal choice. (I agree). And he points out that, basically, we are all going to die sometime. The implication is that Covid-19 could become just a new way to end your life; as flu is currently for some 10,000 – 20,000 people per year. This is perhaps more realistic than the idea that we can protect all elderly people indefinitely.

It is also true, that despite the claims of those favouring the whole population approach, a great deal could be done to assist elderly people who wished to seclude themselves; at least until the risk is reduced by the provision of a vaccine. It might involve costs – but then the government has been quite happy to spend billions helping people who have virtually zero risk from coronavirus stay at home for months. On the other hand; if segmentation fails at a point when there is still widespread transmission in the general population (increased if the “let it rip” policy is followed) the consequences are overflowing hospital wards and large numbers of elderly dead.

I’m still not taking a position; there seem to be valid points of view on both sides. It would be good to see a serious political debate and less of the the accusations and denunciations which characterise this discussion at the moment. One point; if we do move to a strategy of offering focussed protection to the elderly, while releasing the other controls, it would have to be done properly. The government’s track record – needlessly killing 16,000 people by seeding coronavirus into Care Homes does not inspire confidence that they are the agency best placed to manage such a programme.

Update 27/10/20

Here is a statement of the view that the government has overreacted and use manufactured fear to drive through a change in the political relationship between government and people. On one specific point (at any rate) we agree with him 100%; the official response has seen a mix of ‘guidance’ and law and a tendency to confuse which is which. One of the most depressing factors, for this writer, has been to see how 99% (or more) of the media has failed to distinguish between law and guidance, has failed to question the legal basis for restrictions, allowed the police to take it upon themselves to enforce rules which turn out to have no legal basis. This is deeply depressing – it means the mainstream media is simply failing in its duty. In fact it isn’t simply failing; it is collusive in this power grab.