Wednesday 23 September 2020

Ridiculous Covid rules are hurting the young: Allison Pearson

Allison Pearson's latest Telegraph column is a thing of beauty, celebrating that her university-going son has Covid-19. She goes on to explain that 99% of scientists and doctors are wrong, mainly on the grounds that her friend Diana is upset.

Article reproduced below, including all the original's typos. DT, hire some sub-editors back, please!

My son has Covid-19. Good. Everyone in his student house has it as well. Even better. Typically, the infected ones have had a rough four or five days featuring at least one forlorn phone call home to Mum (Experience teaches us that only self-pity or the need for sudden cash injections will cause the young adult male to ring his mother). Already everyone is much improved although the virus's trademark loss of taste and smell (the one symptom those geniuses on SAGE forgot to put on the list) has lingered.

There is no cause for alarm. On the contrary, I am glad that my boy will now form a tiny tile on the vast human shield which will protect his grandparents and other endangered citizens as our country acquires community immunity. Apart from a vaccine (unlikely to show up any time soon), allowing Covid to run through the healthy population is the only way out of this loathsome epidemic which kills our old and murders the futures of our youth.

While unveiling a package of new restrictions which may delay the epidemic, but will never defeat it, the Prime Minister told the Commons that "the fight against this virus will continue ... we will not listen to those who say let it rip". I feel more disappointed in him by the hour. We thought we voted for Winston Churchill and we got King Canute.

Boris really needs to start listening to Sunetra Gupta, professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at Oxford university and a world authority on infectious diseases. "As many young people as possible need to get the virus before winter," says Professor Gupta. Not that chaps like Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty are listening to her. Their Scientific Advisory Group is an echo chamber.

Consider that grim press conference given by the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser and the Chief Medical Officer. Talk about an odd couple: imagine how Bill and Ben would have ended up if neither had got off with Little Weed. What was made all too clear by Whitty and Vallance is that SAGE is still giving credence to the madcap guesses (Oops, sober mathematical models) of Imperial College's Professor Neil Ferguson, he of the "500,000 Covid dead" forecast.

Sir Patrick put up a now-infamous slide which showed almost 50,000 cases a day by mid-October if cases kept doubling every seven or eight days. "This is not a prediction," insisted Sir Patrick disingenuously. Make no mistake, Bill and Ben were fully aware that this implausible viral trajectory (witnessed nowhere else in the world, certainly not in France and Spain as they claimed) would be the main headline on every news outlet. Sure enough. Our boffins and their worst-case-scenario-on- steroids guaranteed that the British public was both primed for another lockdown and scared Whittyless. I saw the proof for myself. By 3pm, the loo-roll locusts had cleared the Andrex aisle in Waitrose.

As a mother, I detest Professor Ferguson and his recklessly inaccurate model for laying waste to my children's prospects. I despise those senior civil servants who have secure pensions and nothing to fear from the economic danger their myopic safetyism has wrought. And I am coming to hate the men in Downing Street who are so busy eliminating risk (mainly to their own reputations) that they condemn the elderly to wither in loneliness and treat students like cattle with foot and mouth.

University term starts this week. It's the ideal time for freshers to socialise, swap mobile details and microbes. Far from relations who may be vulnerable to Covid, they live in promisingly fetid halls of residence where they can easily get the virus during Match of the Day and be rid of it in a week.

Alas, far from seeing uni as the perfect Petri dish in which the virus can be cultured – and ultimately curbed – the authorities have imposed restrictions so draconian you wonder why any young person would want to be there at all.

Glum reports reach me from Exeter and Edinburgh where freshers have to stand two metres apart in a queue for the dining halls and then – get this – sit on their own at an exam-type desk far away from their nearest neighbour, a cordon sanitaire marked out by hazard warning tape. "My daughter hasn't done this yet," emails Diana, "as the thought of standing on your own followed by eating on your own is far too anxious-making. Our other daughter, who is in the second year, tells us the dining hall was the chief place to make friends. How is this going to work for our youngsters?"

"All Edinburgh courses are online," says one dad who is worried that his shy son is isolated in distant lodgings – after

Rank, as my own son would say. Totally rank. St Andrews has taken the higher-education leper colony to its logical conclusion and invited students to "voluntarily isolate". Amazing value for their £9,250 a year, I'm sure you'll agree.

Do Bill and Ben the Pol Pot Men care about the effect their exorbitant graphs and terrorising models are having on actual people, both young and old? I'd like to see Professor Whitty, a monkish bachelor, try and reassure a tearful eighteen-year-old for whom Freshers' Week, never the easiest experience, has turned into a socially-distanced ordeal.

"I am feeling so upset and cross about the whole thing and am not alone amongst my friends," says Diana, who describes herself angrily as an ex-Tory voter. "We are on the verge of marching or chaining ourselves to some railings!"

Believe me, Diana, I feel like chaining myself to some railings with you. How dare our PM say that "nothing is more important than the education of our young people" when our offspring are having their studies wrecked by wholly disproportionate measures. Covid cannot harm students but adult paranoia about Covid certainly can.

How dare the Government's chief scientific adviser show people who are just starting to rebuild their confidence a graph indicating a possible massive spike in Covid cases which has no credible basis in fact. It's garbage. Insulting, manipulative, cruel garbage.

Whitty and Vallance have shafted science by turning it into spin. They should be replaced immediately on SAGE by Professors Gupta and Carl Heneghan, two superb scientists who have dared to challenge the conspiracy of dunces and this week signed a letter to the Prime Minister requesting a new, evidence-based approach to the epidemic.

I predict that Professor Gupta will turn out to be as right as Professor Ferguson was wrong. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the virus is now passing rapidly through 20- to 29-year-olds like my son, but there is much less incidence in the vulnerable 70-plus age group. Grandparents are using common sense to assess their own risk while their beloved grandchildren take one for the team.

Forget panicky politicians. Do our senior citizens really want youngsters to be confined and made miserable on their behalf when Covid makes up just one per cent of all UK deaths and they are 10 times more likely to perish from flu? I know from your defiant letters and emails that you want no such thing. Nor do you want a Conservative government which punishes the next generation in your name.

Instead of forcing students into sterile silos, we should rejoice when they do what comes naturally. The virus poses least threat to their age group and many are in the perfect position to protect rather than kill their Gran. Let Freshers have their fun and to the virus we say, Go forth and multiply! Community immunity can't come a moment too soon.


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