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COVID-19 – sensible precautions, or hysterical panic to limit human rights?

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The mainstream news is completely hysterical, writes Godders.

Yes, there is an overwhelming case for immuno-suppressed persons to self-isolate, especially if such persons have certain co-morbidities. Unsurprisingly, this self-isolating group will also include frail pensioners. All persons in this vulnerable cohort, who ought to self-isolate for the preservation of health, already know that self-isolation is required. 
However, for everyone else in the population, i.e. for 85% of the population, the worst symptoms that the virus is likely to cause will correspond to a mild case of pneumonia. Thus: a lot of coughing; a mild fever; and the necessity of sleeping propped up for a week (in order to aid breathing at night). Arguably, this is only a few degrees worse than the seasonal ailments that afflict many of us each winter.

Requiring what seems to be nearly everyone to self-isolate means that a virus that ought to have swept through the nation in a 6-week maelstrom is instead going to drag on for 6 months – or possibly longer. This acute health crisis is being recklessly spun out in order to yield a real crisis in economic activity.

The economic effect of shutting down all public-facing activity will be extreme, particularly in countries which rely heavily on a service-sector economy such as Britain. Most people in the gig economy are facing economic ruin. Most smaller retail & customer-facing businesses will be wiped out. There has never been an economic slow down of the magnitude of the coming shut down. Not even in the great depression of the 1930’s.

In terms of our liberty and our freedom as independent actors, all of us will be diminished.


The only person who will be relatively unaffected in the UK is the public sector worker, who is paid regardless of his actual output.

When all is done and dusted, many individuals and businesses will be in crippling debt. So much debt that there will be gnashing of teeth and crying out to the heavens for amelioration. I wonder, who might be ready to step in with public assistance? Who might be standing by to provide emergency remedy & bailout? Why, big government of course! Yes, big government will come to the rescue and, in the immediate aftermath, big government will be praised. However, since nothing is given for free, this bailout will extract a heavy toll. In terms of our liberty and our freedom as independent actors, all of us will be diminished. The state will control yet more of our lives and ancient and documented liberties will have been eroded yet further.

If I am wrong, then someone please explain the current hype, the current hysteria and the current hullabaloo, which is now out of all proportion to the current threat. In reality, self-isolation ought to be indicated for the vulnerable cohort only. Fit persons are in a position to catch the virus and fight it off, thereby raising herd immunity. After a 6-week maelstrom of infection, there would be sufficient herd immunity such that the rate of new infection would decline precipitously. There is no indication for a complete shut down of economic activity.

5 comments on “COVID-19 – sensible precautions, or hysterical panic to limit human rights?


Self isolation _is_ only recommended for the vulnerable. Social distancing is recommended for everybody else, and is different.

The intent is explicitly to slow the spread of the virus through the population. Although many people will have minimal symptoms and impacts, people of all ages can require medical assistance and the fatality rate would rise substantially were that to be unavailable. By slowing the spread the NHS can better meet the needs of those that do suffer severe impacts from the virus, instead of triaging which of them get treated and which die – something that’s happening in Italy.

The hype and hysteria are to a degree media driven but there is a very real danger to the population if measures are not taken. The extent of the economic impact of the measures is going to be very severe and will have ramifications for a few years to come, but are still likely less than having between one and three million people all need an intensive care bed at the same time.

Remember that at a population level ‘most’ people being fine means that the ‘few’ remaining still number in the hundreds of thousands, or millions.

Cederic, even if the virus were allowed to rip through the whole population (including the vulnerable cohort) in a 6-week maelstrom, it is not true that “between one and three million people all need an intensive care bed at the same time”. This figure needs to be pulled down by one order of magnitude. A more plausible worst case scenario is that, if the vulnerable cohort were not isolated, then 300,000 ITU beds might be required simultaneously. This is because not everyone in the vulnerable cohort would require ITU support; most of them would be able to muddle through. Nonetheless, the requirement for 300,000 ITU beds would obviously overwhelm the NHS instantly. However, given that the vulnerable cohort is already in self-isolation, it is clear that this worst case scenario will not occur.

As far as I am aware, the cohort of vulnerable persons is currently in isolation. This is the critical measure and it has been implemented. In practical terms, this represents the optimum response to coronavirus.

So, having isolated the vulnerable cohort, it remains to be seen how effective the recommended social distancing is going to be. Sensible measures, such as avoidance of handshaking and the promotion of good hand hygiene, are fine. However, I do question the practicality of asking everyone to remain not less than two metres apart for the foreseeable future. This has the effect of making normal activity impossible. As if to underline the point that normal activity is now impossible, all public-facing businesses have been ordered to close, including restaurants, public houses, sports facilities, galleries, museums, libraries, etc.

Let us consider the what wider consequences of the current economic shut-down are likely to be…

If big government were to step in with big bailouts and rescue packages, then we would all be diminished, since we shall no longer be free economic actors and the nations of the world will be saddled with an exponential increase of crippling debt.

On the other hand, if government declines to relieve the very real economic distress that most of the population will experience, then the repercussions for population health will be profound. How many families are likely to fall apart because the man of the house is no longer bringing in a breadwinner’s wage? How much chronic ill-health will be caused by such family break-up, divorce, and separation? How many self-employed men and small business owners will simply commit suicide because they have been ruined financially? It hardly bears contemplation.

Either way, the current economic shut-down spells long-term disaster – and a much bigger disaster than virus would have caused.


I am very concerned with the economic impacts, and it’s going to cause me severe financial hardship personally.

Why I disagree with your ‘short sharp shock’ approach is that we have different assumptions regarding the impact on the ‘not vulnerable’. For instance, in parts of Italy things appear to reaching extremes:

I don’t envy Governments (ours and everybody else’s) having to try and find the balance between protecting public health, protecting the economy and (because I’m cynical and this is the real world) getting re-elected. No easy decisions.

24 March 2020 at 07:39
Cederic, I do indeed favour the ‘short sharp shock’ strategy. There is nothing worse than dragging out an acute crisis into an extended suffering in Purgatory.
Thanks to progressive value systems and so-called liberalism, almost no government is sufficiently competent to cut its coat according to its cloth. The inevitable result of an extended shut-down can only be an exponential increase in borrowing and a corresponding rise in both national and personal debt. Since most nations in the world are already being crushed to death under mountains of debt, the independence of any given nation is increasingly in doubt.
Dragging out this crisis into an existential limbo only brings closer the doomsday when national sovereignties everywhere will be dissolved in favour of a globalist, one-world government.


I am divided on this issue, though do not claim to have looked into it as much as Cedric or Godders.

If the only purpose of lock-down is to give health services (mostly the NHS in the UK) time to prepare for patients, that’s an understandable desire on the part of the health services, who are probably faced with almost everyone in the world having to have caught this virus before it can be of no further social threat.

But if the purpose of lock-down is to give health systems a few weeks’ relief period to get ready, why are governments declaring years – and even open-ended – periods of ‘special measures’ in curtailing people’s liberty? I have yet to find a government which, having decided upon special measures for specific reasons, then creates a law enacting those special measures which is bound by those specific reasons. Instead, a law (or more) is created based on time, at best.

The mathematics seem simple. Take the total population, divide it by the time that catching it can be stretched out, that gives the number of patients to be handled, at least half of whom will be asymptomatic (possibly ¾ of them, the data are still sketchy). Something like 7% of symptomatic patients will require intensive care (even on this, the data are still sketchy, which they should not be by now).

In the UK, two years have been grabbed by the government. Not weeks, but years of lock-down are what the government has taken from its people. This, even in the country which first banned global slavery, which derived the first Bill of Rights, which stood alone for a time against fascist powers having declared war on them in 1939.

By the end of two years, what are special measures now, will have become normality. Looking still at the UK, if the epidemic is to be allowed to run its course over a period of two years, that could be as many as 43,000 symptomatic patients every day. 7% of that is 300 in intensive care for an average of (I think) three weeks. That’s 3,000 EXTRA intensive care units needed (possibly less if more patients are asymptomatic, but also more because an average figure doesn’t allow for peak periods of need). In the USA, that amounts to around 15,000 extra intensive care patients.

Meanwhile, the health of the nation generally will have fallen. Old people who would have had regular contact will be doing without it, so be more vulnerable when they fall ill or have an accident. Poverty itself is a statistical life-reducer and even one year of lock-down will create severe poverty. The only thing that will have improved is the road death toll (usually around 5 people per day in the UK, 100 per day in the USA).

Worse even than death data are the curtailment of civil and individual liberties. Yes, worse: why else have “free world” countries gone to war against dictators, be they fascist or communist. There is something more valuable than life: freedom. It is freedom which is under threat right now. Lives will be lost whichever path governments take.

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