As new research confirms that lockdowns caused immeasurable harm, particularly to children, University of Oxford Professor of Epidemiology Sunetra Gupta has written in the Telegraph that “we are entering a phase of ‘narrative collapse’”. However, many are still refusing to recognise that the problem wasn’t just school closures; it was lockdown. Here’s an excerpt.
It is understandable that, during lockdown, some professionals were cautious so as not to antagonise those who had the power to put an end to these practices. But it is time to put such concerns aside and establish a rational framework that prevents such a disaster from recurring.
It was clear from the outset that the risk of dying from SARS-CoV-2 infection was negligible in healthy children. It follows that they did not need protection from infection. Closing schools, forcing them to wear masks and endure the hardships of social distancing, and vaccinating them, could only be justified in terms of stopping community spread. None of these measures had a reasonable impact on the dynamics of infection.
So, is the lesson that, next time, we must lock down but keep schools open? Many of us would bargain for that, especially if we put higher education institutions into the mix, as young adults were also robbed of critical experiences at a delicate time in their lives. But by the time we implemented all these compassionate exclusions to lockdown, including the maintenance of all essential services, what we are looking at is the focused protection of the vulnerable rather than a policy that is effective against the spread of infection.
This is because there is no halfway house when it comes to halting the spread of a new pathogen. The curve between a full-scale lockdown and let-it-rip is anything but a steady slope.
It could be argued that the reason closing schools made hardly any difference was because lockdowns are, ultimately, an extremely ineffective way of stopping spread. Certainly, border closures can be used in very specific circumstances to prevent a pathogen from exiting or entering a community. But there were no credible empirical or theoretical reasons to believe that we could use social distancing measures to snuff it out once it was here. There were plenty of reasons to believe that trying to do so would cause a lot of harm.
The discussion around the effects of Covid policies on children confirms that we are entering a phase of ‘narrative collapse’ in the perception of how the crisis was handled. But it still needs to be accepted that keeping a lid on the spread of Covid without closing schools is a fantasy; there is therefore no way to reconcile the philosophy of lockdown with avoidance of harm to children. The only coherent strategy is one of focused protection, in which vulnerable people are protected without imposing egregious costs on those not at risk.