Last Monday, I excerpted parts of Peter Hitchens’s column from the Mail on Sunday, March 22, 2020: ‘Is shutting down Britain REALLY the right answer?’.

Yesterday, March 29, he wrote another column, this one about the coronavirus shutdown one week after: ‘This Great Panic is foolish, yet our freedom is still broken and economy crippled’. His column has photos of what’s been going on over the past seven days, including one of Derbyshire police telling a couple walking their dog in the remote hills that what they are doing is ‘not essential’.

Emphases mine below.

He says he got a lot of verbal abuse for his March 22 column. Yet, he also received many messages of support.

That support comes from the silent majority whose voices are never heard on the news or even in their own communities. We must be quiet and follow the herd now.

He is right to say that things will get worse before they get better. On Monday evening, March 23, Boris announced an immediate lockdown. By Wednesday, March 25, the Coronavirus Bill passed the House of Lords.

Incidentally, I wrote this on Sunday, and a gale blew threw all day long. Temperatures took a dip. Although it was sunny, at least where I live, it was not good weather for walking around, even with restrictions. But I digress.

Hitchens predicts — probably rightly — that the government will have to tighten the screws just to reinforce its own misguided case:

I now suspect this dark season might get still worse before we see the clear, calm light of reason again. The greater the mistake we have made, the less willing we are to admit it or correct it. This is why I greatly fear worse developments in the coming few days.

When I predicted roadblocks in my column two weeks ago, which I did, I did so out of an instinct that we were entering on the craziest period of our lives since the death of Princess Diana. And now there are such roadblocks, officious, embarrassing blots on our national reputation.

But even I would not have dared to predict the mass house arrest under which we are all now confined.

He mentions a little known piece of legislation passed in 1984 (!) which he says was used to justify the lockdown:

I have found the origin of this bizarre Napoleonic decree – a few clauses in the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, which I confess I had not even heard of. It just goes to show how careful you have to be with the wording of the laws you pass.

Holy moly:

Perhaps we will emulate the French or Italian states, which have returned to their despotic origins and reduced their populations to a sort of cowering serfdom, barely able to step into the street.

I wonder whether there might also be restrictions on what can be said and published. I can see no necessary bar to this in the law involved.

Section 45 C (3) (c) of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 (appropriately enough) is the bit that does it. Once the Health Secretary believes there is a threat to public health, he has – or claims to have – limitless powers to do what he likes, ‘imposing or enabling the imposition of restrictions or requirements on or in relation to persons, things or premises in the event of, or in response to, a threat to public health’.

The former Supreme Court Judge Lord Sumption doubts that the Act can be used in this way and warns: ‘There is a difference between law and official instructions. It is the difference between a democracy and a police state. Liberty and the rule of law are surely worth something, even in the face of a pandemic.’

Lord Sumption is generally a liberal hero, and he was invited to deliver last year’s BBC Reith Lectures. But the Human Rights crowd have all melted away in the face of this outrage. So his warning was buried on Page 54 of The Times on Thursday, and Parliament, already supine, has slunk away after its craven acceptance of new attacks on liberty on Monday.

It will be interesting to see what our MPs have to say on April 22 when they reconvene in the House of Commons after Easter break.

Until then:

do not be surprised by anything. After last week, can we rule anything out?

The police are playing a bigger role in the North. Civilians are opting in to help, Hitchens says:

Humberside police are already advertising a ‘portal’ for citizens to inform on their neighbours for breaking the ‘social distancing’ rules.

If you think they won’t get any takers, think again. Northamptonshire police have revealed that their control room has had ‘dozens and dozens’ of calls about people ignoring the order.

They said: ‘We are getting calls from people who say, “I think my neighbour is going out on a second run – I want you to come and arrest them.”’

Others will have seen the films, taken by Derbyshire police drones, of lonely walkers on the remote, empty hills, publicly pillorying them for not obeying the regulations. It is genuinely hard to see what damage these walkers have done.

Meanwhile, in London, police are telling isolated sunbathers in search of natural Vitamin D — said to ward off coronavirus — not to lie on the grass in parks:

Most people will, by now, have viewed the online film of Metropolitan police officers bellowing officiously at sunbathers on Shepherd’s Bush Green in London, energetically stamping out the foul crime of lying on the grass (would they have paid so much attention, two weeks ago, to a gaggle of louts making an unpleasant noise, or to marijuana smokers?).

Hitchens says this reminds him of his time in the Soviet Union:

… as a former resident of the USSR, I can tell you that this sort of endless meddling by petty authority in the details of life, reinforced by narks, is normal in unfree societies – such as we have now become for an indefinite period. It is, by the way, also a seedbed for corruption.

He turns his attention to the economy, specifically the generous coronavirus bail out for 95% of people living in Britain. How can Chancellor Rishi Sunak recoup the money? Only through higher taxes in the years to come.

This is what scares me and, as sure as night follows day, this WILL happen:

He will get this back from us as soon as we are allowed out again. Just you wait till you get the bill, in increased taxes, inflation and devastated savings.

Hitchens discusses the evidence supporting his arguments during what he calls the Great Panic:

several powerful pieces of evidence have come to light, suggesting that the Great Panic is foolish and wrong.

… I do not claim to be an expert. But I refer to those who definitely are experts, who doubt the wisdom of what we are doing.

It is sad that far too little of this is being reported as prominently as it should be by our supposedly diverse and free media, especially the BBC, which has largely closed its mind and its airwaves to dissent. It is quite funny that a statue of George Orwell stands by the entrance to the BBC, bearing the inscription: ‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’ …

Now, if you want a scientist who does not support Government policy, the most impressive of these is Prof Sucharit Bhakdi. If you desire experts, he is one.

He is an infectious medicine specialist, one of the most highly cited medical research scientists in Germany. He was head of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, one of Germany’s most distinguished seats of learning.

In a recent interview he had many uncomplimentary things to say about the shutdown policy being pursued by so many countries (there is a link on my blog to the interview, and a transcription).

But perhaps the most powerful was his reply to the suggestion that the closedown of society would save lives. He argued the contrary, saying this policy was ‘grotesque, absurd and very dangerous’.

He warned: ‘Our elderly citizens have every right to make efforts not to belong to the 2,200 [in Germany] who daily embark on their last journey. Social contacts and social events, theatre and music, travel and holiday recreation, sports and hobbies all help to prolong their stay on Earth. The life expectancy of millions is being shortened.’

He also gave this warning: ‘The horrifying impact on the world economy threatens the existence of countless people.

‘The consequences for medical care are profound. Already services to patients who are in need are reduced, operations cancelled, practices empty, hospital personnel dwindling.

‘All this will impact profoundly on our whole society.

‘I can only say that all these measures are leading to self-destruction and collective suicide because of nothing but a spook.’

Dr John Lee is another expert. He wrote an article for the Spectator on March 28 about the way Britain is handling coronavirus:

John Lee, a recently retired professor of pathology and a former NHS consultant pathologist, writes in The Spectator this weekend that by making Covid-19 a notifiable disease, the authorities may have distorted the figures.

‘In the current climate, anyone with a positive test for Covid-19 will certainly be known to clinical staff looking after them: if any of these patients dies, staff will have to record the Covid-19 designation on the death certificate – contrary to usual practice for most infections of this kind.

There is a big difference between Covid-19 causing death, and Covid-19 being found in someone who died of other causes.

Making Covid-19 notifiable might give the appearance of it causing increasing numbers of deaths, whether this is true or not. It might appear far more of a killer than flu, simply because of the way deaths are recorded.’

This, of course, explains why such an overwhelming number of Covid deaths, here and abroad, involve so-called ‘underlying conditions’, in fact serious, often fatal, diseases.

Take this into account whenever you hear official figures of coronavirus deaths.

Dr Lee adds, equally crucially: ‘We risk being convinced that we have averted something that was never really going to be as severe as we feared.’

As Hitchens says, there are important lessons to be learnt from the Great Panic, especially those regarding civil liberties and a broken economy.

The question remains: will we learn those lessons?