On Friday, March 20, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in his daily coronavirus update at 5 p.m. that all pubs, clubs, cinemas, restaurants, gyms and theatres would have to close effective immediately.

He also asked that people buy groceries ‘considerately’.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a number of government measures he was implementing to keep companies and workers afloat.

Although the Chancellor presented his spending proposals brilliantly, it scared me to hear the vast scale of them.

The economy will crash. Not only ours, but those all over the world.

Remember, whatever you hear or read in the media, 98% of coronavirus sufferers recover.

On March 5, an emergency room physician, Dr James Phillips, gave Fox News’s Ed Henry the same figure (emphases mine below):

“Most of us are going to get this virus. It’s undeniable. You won’t find a single expert out there who is saying that this is going to be contained,” said Phillips, who serves as the George Washington University School of Medicine’s operational medicine fellowship director.

“And, the more we learn about it, the more we see that the spread is going to be global and, for the most part, that’s OK because the data we know from China shows that roughly 98 to 99 percent of us are going to do very, very, well,” he told Henry at the time.

In the Mail on Sunday, on March 22, Peter Hitchens had an excellent editorial on the draconian measures implemented in the fight against coronavirus thus far: ‘Is shutting down Britain REALLY the right answer?’

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Hitchens began with a personal anecdote about a medical ailment he had which two doctors said required an operation. A third physician told him to cancel the operation and take a different antibiotic instead. He was correct. Hitchens writes:

Heaven knows what would have happened if Providence had not brought that third doctor into the room. I still shudder slightly to think of it. But the point was this. A mere title, a white coat, a smooth manner, a winning way with long words and technical jargon, will never again be enough for me.

With this in mind, he expressed his doubts about the partial lockdown in place since Friday afternoon.

I thought that the emergency legislation had already been passed. Ugh. He says it is up for the vote today, Monday, March 23:

And so here I am, asking bluntly – is the closedown of the country the right answer to the coronavirus? I’ll be accused of undermining the NHS and threatening public health and all kinds of other conformist rubbish. But I ask you to join me, because if we have this wrong we have a great deal to lose.

I don’t just address this plea to my readers. I think my fellow journalists should ask the same questions. I think MPs of all parties should ask them when they are urged tomorrow to pass into law a frightening series of restrictions on ancient liberties and vast increases in police and state powers.

Perhaps this is why I thought these unprecedented measures had already become law:

Did you know that the Government and Opposition had originally agreed that there would not even be a vote on these measures? Even Vladimir Putin might hesitate before doing anything so blatant.

We are at a crucial crossroads:

If there is no serious rebellion against this plan in the Commons, then I think we can commemorate tomorrow, March 23, 2020, as the day Parliament died. Yet, as far as I can see, the population cares more about running out of lavatory paper. Praise must go to David Davis and Chris Bryant, two MPs who have bravely challenged this measure.

Chris Bryant (Labour, Rhondda) is an ordained Anglican priest, although he gave up that calling for politics, partly because of his personal circumstances.

As I have been saying here the past week, shutdown measures anywhere are killing not only treasured civil liberties but also the free-market economy. Those are the two pillars of Western society.

Hitchens rightly points out our upcoming economic disaster:

It may also be the day our economy perished. The incessant coverage of health scares and supermarket panics has obscured the dire news coming each hour from the stock markets and the money exchanges. The wealth that should pay our pensions is shrivelling as share values fade and fall. The pound sterling has lost a huge part of its value. Governments all over the world are resorting to risky, frantic measures which make Jeremy Corbyn’s magic money tree look like sober, sound finance. Much of this has been made far worse by the general shutdown of the planet on the pretext of the coronavirus scare. However bad this virus is (and I will come to that), the feverish panic on the world’s trading floors is at least as bad.

Now on to our treasured civil liberties, being eroded one by one:

At first, Mr Johnson was true to himself and resisted wild demands to close down the country. But bit by bit he gave in.

Yes, and I am furious about that:

The schools were to stay open. Now they are shutting, with miserable consequences for this year’s A-level cohort. Cafes and pubs were to be allowed to stay open, but now that is over. On this logic, shops and supermarkets must be next, with everyone forced to rely on overstrained delivery vans. And that will presumably be followed by hairdressers, dry cleaners and shoe repairers.

How long before we need passes to go out in the streets, as in any other banana republic? As for the grotesque, bullying powers to be created on Monday, I can only tell you that you will hate them like poison by the time they are imposed on you.

I am sure my fellow Britons are aware that during the coronavirus scare, in France, you must carry a document — available online — that states your one destination on any particular day. There you are allowed to leave the house only once a day! And, yes, police DO check (source: RMC’s Les Grandes Gueules, all last week).

Is that what Britons want?

What about this?

Imagine, police officers forcing you to be screened for a disease, and locking you up for 48 hours if you object. Is this China or Britain? Think how this power could be used against, literally, anybody.

The Bill also gives Ministers the authority to ban mass gatherings. It will enable police and public health workers to place restrictions on a person’s ‘movements and travel’, ‘activities’ and ‘contact with others’.

Many court cases will now take place via video-link, and if a coroner suspects someone has died of coronavirus there will be no inquest. They say this is temporary. They always do.

If you doubt Hitchens or me, look at America’s Patriot Act — still going strong long since 2001! It’s nearly 19 years old!

Hitchens returns to the theme of trusting experts, medical or otherwise:

There is a document from a team at Imperial College in London which is being used to justify it. It warns of vast numbers of deaths if the country is not subjected to a medieval curfew.

But this is all speculation. It claims, in my view quite wrongly, that the coronavirus has ‘comparable lethality’ to the Spanish flu of 1918, which killed at least 17 million people and mainly attacked the young.

What can one say to this? In a pungent letter to The Times last week, a leading vet, Dick Sibley, cast doubt on the brilliance of the Imperial College scientists, saying that his heart sank when he learned they were advising the Government. Calling them a ‘team of doom-mongers’, he said their advice on the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak ‘led to what I believe to be the unnecessary slaughter of millions of healthy cattle and sheep’ until they were overruled by the then Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King.

He added: ‘I hope that Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance show similar wisdom. They must ensure that measures are proportionate, balanced and practical.’

I fully agree. But all wisdom seems to have been thrown out the window now.

How I wish we could go back to Thursday, March 12, when we were given only the sensible advice on hygiene and social distancing: common sense measures.

Hitchens then goes into the stats for England’s annual flu/respiratory ailment deaths, which are far more in number than coronavirus deaths, even worldwide.

England’s population, by the way, is approximately 55 million:

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) tells me that the number of flu cases and deaths due to flu-related complications in England alone averages 17,000 a year. This varies greatly each winter, ranging from 1,692 deaths last season (2018/19) to 28,330 deaths in 2014/15.

The DHSC notes that many of those who die from these diseases have underlying health conditions, as do almost all the victims of coronavirus so far, here and elsewhere. As the experienced and knowledgeable doctor who writes under the pseudonym ‘MD’ in the Left-wing magazine Private Eye wrote at the start of the panic: ‘In the winter of 2017-18, more than 50,000 excess deaths occurred in England and Wales, largely unnoticed.’

There are other deaths every year, far more numerous than those from flu:

In the Government’s table of ‘deaths considered avoidable’, it lists 31,307 deaths from cardiovascular diseases in England and Wales for 2013, the last year for which they could give me figures.

This, largely the toll of unhealthy lifestyles, was out of a total of 114,740 ‘avoidable’ deaths in that year. To put all these figures in perspective, please note that every human being in the United Kingdom suffers from a fatal condition – being alive.

About 1,600 people die every day in the UK for one reason or another. A similar figure applies in Italy and a much larger one in China. The coronavirus deaths, while distressing and shocking, are not so numerous as to require the civilised world to shut down transport and commerce, nor to surrender centuries-old liberties in an afternoon.

AGREE!

Hitchens goes on to quote Dr John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine, epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics at Stanford University in California:

He says the data are utterly unreliable because so many cases are going unrecorded.

He warns: ‘This evidence fiasco creates tremendous uncertainty about the risk of dying from Covid-19. Reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4 per cent rate from the World Health Organisation, cause horror and are meaningless.’ In only one place – aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess – has an entire closed community been available for study. And the death rate there – just one per cent – is distorted because so many of those aboard were elderly. The real rate, adjusted for a wide age range, could be as low as 0.05 per cent and as high as one per cent.

As Prof Ioannidis says: ‘That huge range markedly affects how severe the pandemic is and what should be done. A population-wide case fatality rate of 0.05 per cent is lower than seasonal influenza. If that is the true rate, locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational

Hitchens then looks at the projected inflated statistics — false — that have accompanied recent health scares:

The former editor of The Times, Sir Simon Jenkins, recently listed these unfulfilled scares: bird flu did not kill the predicted millions in 1997. In 1999 it was Mad Cow Disease and its human variant, vCJD, which was predicted to kill half a million. Fewer than 200 in fact died from it in the UK.

The first Sars outbreak of 2003 was reported as having ‘a 25 per cent chance of killing tens of millions’ and being ‘worse than Aids’. In 2006, another bout of bird flu was declared ‘the first pandemic of the 21st Century’.

There were similar warnings in 2009, that swine flu could kill 65,000. It did not. The Council of Europe described the hyping of the 2009 pandemic as ‘one of the great medical scandals of the century’.

The measures being taken right now are more lethal to Britain than coronavirus itself.

Hitchens says:

… while I see very little evidence of a pandemic, and much more of a PanicDemic, I can witness on my daily round the slow strangulation of dozens of small businesses near where I live and work, and the catastrophic collapse of a flourishing society, all these things brought on by a Government policy made out of fear and speculation rather than thought.

Much that is closing may never open again. The time lost to schoolchildren and university students – in debt for courses which have simply ceased to be taught – is irrecoverable, just as the jobs which are being wiped out will not reappear when the panic at last subsides.

He warns us about projections and extrapolations from notional experts. Will martial law stop the spread of coronavirus? Hmm, one wonders. Hitchens doubts it. So do I:

We are told that we must emulate Italy or China, but there is no evidence that the flailing, despotic measures taken in these countries reduced the incidence of coronavirus. The most basic error in science is to assume that because B happens after A, that B was caused by A.

He knows that his stance is unpopular, but feels it is necessary to speak up now:

There may, just, be time to reconsider. I know that many of you long for some sort of coherent opposition to be voiced. The people who are paid to be the Opposition do not seem to wish to earn their rations, so it is up to the rest of us. I despair that so many in the commentariat and politics obediently accept what they are being told. I have lived long enough, and travelled far enough, to know that authority is often wrong and cannot always be trusted.

I also know that dissent at this time will bring me abuse and perhaps worse. But I am not saying this for fun, or to be ‘contrarian’ –that stupid word which suggests that you are picking an argument for fun. This is not fun.

This is our future, and if I did not lift my voice to speak up for it now, even if I do it quite alone, I should consider that I was not worthy to call myself English or British, or a journalist, and that my parents’ generation had wasted their time saving the freedom and prosperity which they handed on to me after a long and cruel struggle whose privations and griefs we can barely imagine.

Of course, that was Sunday. Today is Monday.

I wrote this on Mothering Sunday. There were no church services yesterday. There were no synagogue services on Saturday.

The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Britons not to visit their mothers yesterday:

While he advised Britons to stop stockpiling …

… he also warned of more restrictions to come:

Why not give the weekend’s restrictions time to percolate through the population? We’ve only had a few days.

I despair. What will happen when the next pandemic rolls along?

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Monday update: This will be brief, as Parliament adjourned around 10:45 p.m. I’d been watching the Coronavirus Bill debate and committee stage debate since 4:00 p.m. with a break for dinner.

While MPs debated, between 8:30 and 8:35 p.m., we watched Boris announce that we are now in a three-week lockdown, effective immediately:

You can read more here:

But don’t worry. As in France, building sites remain open for work:

These are Tuesday morning’s headlines:

A sparse and generally well-spaced group of MPs ended their day as follows, with the third reading of the Coronavirus Bill passing without a formal vote (division), just:

‘All in favour, say Aye.’

‘AYE.’

Admittedly, there were dozens of amendments that all passed.

We shall see what the near future brings over the course of the next three weeks.