This week’s news that former Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock would be standing down as MP for West Suffolk at the next election was a joyful tiding, indeed.

Hancock is currently an Independent MP. The Conservative whip was withdrawn on November 1, 2002, when he accepted the invitation to appear on I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here, which takes place in the Australian jungle. Amazingly, he came third, getting further than Boy George did.

This week saw more Hancock news with the publication of his Pandemic Diaries, co-authored with former Times journalist, Isabel Oakeshott.

This series charts the rise and fall of the former Conservative MP, a principal protagonist in the coronavirus drama of 2020 and the first half of 2021.

Two Oxford medics give their verdict

On December 8, 2022, The Spectator featured an article from Drs Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson from the University of Oxford: ‘The UK isn’t learning the right lessons from lockdown’.

Both were sceptics during the pandemic, the type of medics Matt Hancock eschewed, as we will find out later on from the Pandemic Diaries.

Excerpts from Heneghan and Jefferson’s article follow, emphases mine:

This month, the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care published a Technical Report on the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK

The report is a long 11-chapter document describing the UK’s response and pointing out suggestions for dealing with future pandemics.  

The report is described as ‘independent’, but the authors are public health civil servants and a handful of academics. Given that the authors were instrumental to a greater and lesser degree in implementing the catastrophes of lockdowns, this report is as independent as President Xi marking his own homework in China

It is hard to reconcile some of the report’s content with what we have written about in the past. For example, there is no mention of the misuse of PCR tests or of Britain’s failure to follow the example of other countries, whose contact tracing systems were overwhelmed in days.

There is also no apology for the evidence-free mass testing programme, the segregation of healthy people, and the lack of identification of truly infectious cases.  

I remember the early weeks of the pandemic, which entered totalitarian territory on Monday, March 23, 2020, with Boris’s five-minute announcement on lockdown.

My far better half and I wondered then about the absurdity of contract tracing. Fortunately, neither of us has a smartphone, nor did we participate in any testing regime ever. We simply don’t see that many people.

Heneghan and Jefferson’s article states:

It would have been better if the report admitted that contact tracing is hugely challenging, that it would never have achieved its intended outcomes and was, therefore, a waste of £37 billion. This is something health officials in Lombardy, Italy had realised by the beginning of March 2020. The UK Parliament has also pointed out that the contract tracing programme had an ‘unimaginable’ cost

Yet, Matt Hancock paraded it as being a fail-safe method of finding out about loads of infectious people.

Then there were the hospitalisations. Here is a little-known fact worth repeating again and again:

up to 40 per cent of ‘hospital cases’ were infections acquired in hospitals … suggesting that whatever ‘protection’ measures hospitals were taking did not work

After that came the school closures, even when Government officials said that children were at low risk from coronavirus themselves but could still transmit it to older relatives. Hmm:

When it comes to the low risk to school children and teachers, the report portrays this as a tension between missing education and stopping transmission

But school-age children had the lowest Covid risk, and we are now reaping the effects of this immunological segregation, with a whirlwind of influenza-like illnesses sweeping across the country. The costs to children socialising and the impact on their schooling are mere details in the report.  

Heneghan and Jefferson point out that the report makes scant mention of the 7.2 million people on NHS waiting lists and the rise in excess deaths because of lockdown. Furthermore:

Our requests for the cause of the current excess in deaths have gone unanswered.

The footnotes and references in the report appalled them:

the type of evidence cited in the report’s footnotes and references is remarkable. It mainly relies on models, i.e. opinions formulated by those with a long history of getting it wrong or citing selective pieces of work

They say that there should be no excuses for the lack of planning for the pandemic:

There is no mention of the need for proper planning to plug known gaps in the evidence. For example, suppose you need to know whether masks or other physical interventions work in the community, you prepare protocols for trials designed to find this out in a short time. In that case, you get prior ethical approval and fire the starter pistol when the WHO declares a pandemic or earlier.  

There is plenty of precedent for this kind of preparation. That is what happened in 2009 with mock-up influenza pre-pandemic vaccines. So there can be no excuses here, just a disregard for crucial gaps in the evidence and a reluctance to address them. It is even easier in the case of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) as there are no regulators breathing down your neck. 

As for crucial NPIs, such as mask wearing and lockdown, the report says:

It may never be possible fully to disentangle some of the effects of individual NPIs in this pandemic, as many were used together…. 

Observational studies on NPIs were often complicated by several potential confounders.

The medics conclude that nothing will change:

Due to the sheer number of interventions tried at any one time, we may never know what works, particularly if we also rely on low-quality observational studies – as we have done – to inform policy.

But none of this matters: it’ll be more of the same next time  

Hancock champions Klaus Schwab

Matt Hancock entered Parliament in May 2010, when David Cameron became Prime Minister, ending 13 years of Labour government.

Hancock began his ministerial rise to in 2013 as a junior minister in what was then the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. He was the UK’s Anti-Corruption Champion from 2014 and 2015. He served as Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General between 2015 and 2016. 

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, Hancock became Minister of State for Digital and Culture, now the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

In that capacity, he delivered a speech praising Klaus Schwab’s Fourth Industrial Revolution. He delivered the speech at the House of Commons to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) at the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s (4IR’s) autumn reception on October 16, 2017. Hancock introduced Klaus to the APPG.

The transcript is still available to read in full:

… the nature of the new technologies is that the changes we are experiencing today, are probably the slowest changes we will see over the rest of our lifetimes. If you don’t much like change, I’m afraid I don’t have so much good news.

Our task, in this building and around the world, is to make this technology, this change, work for humanity. And I’m profoundly confident we can. Because this technology is made by man, so it can be hewn to build a better future for mankind.

And I’m delighted to speak alongside so many impressive colleagues who really understand this, and alongside Professor Klaus Schwab who literally ‘wrote the book’ on the 4th Industrial Revolution. Your work, bringing together as you do all the best minds on the planet, has informed what we are doing, and I’m delighted to work with you.

For the 1st Industrial Revolution, the UK could claim to be the ‘workshop of the world’ – propelled by development of the steam engine, it reached its pinnacle in the mid-19th Century. But the UK has not had the monopoly on waves of industrialisation.

Now, in the fourth revolution, we are determined to use our strengths to play a leading part. By its nature the fourth industrial revolution is more collaborative than the first. And we will play our part

our Digital Strategy, embedded within the wider Industrial Strategy, sets out the seven pillars on which we can build our success. And inside that fits our 5G strategy, like a set of Russian Dolls.

Our Strategy covers infrastructure, skills, rules and ethics of big data use, cyber security, supporting the tech sector, the digitisation of industry, and digitisation of government. All these are important.

… today I am delighted to announce that we are launching the first £25m competition for 5G testbeds and trials projects. We already lead on the highly technical development of 5G standards through the international work of the University of Surrey and others.

Now we are looking for innovative projects to test the roll out of 5G to develop the UK’s growing 5G ecosystem. We want projects that explore the real-world potential for 5G …

It will also support projects which explore ways of using 5G technology to address challenges in particular sectors, such as those faced in health and social care

Earlier this year, the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ was not a very well-known term – at least before it became a central topic at the World Economic Forum. It recently made its way into an item on BBC Breakfast television – this shows we’ve probably started to reach critical mass.

It’s a pleasure now to introduce the man who made the fourth industrial revolution a household phrase: Professor Klaus Schwab.

Hancock became Secretary of State for Health and Social Care under Theresa May in July 2018, when she promoted Jeremy Hunt, his predecessor, to Foreign Secretary. Hancock remained in post throughout the pandemic until he was caught on camera in a heavy embrace with his then-adviser, now girlfriend, in 2021, when social distancing restrictions were still in place.

Hancock returned to the Conservative backbenches on June 26, 2021, after The Sun published the photos. Hancock and his girlfriend immediately separated from their spouses and are still an item.

The run-up to the pandemic

Even before the pandemic, Hancock was opposed to people who questioned vaccines.

On Sunday, September 29, 2019, The Guardian reported that he wanted compulsory vaccinations for schoolchildren:

The government is “looking very seriously” at making vaccinations compulsory for state school pupils and has taken advice on how such a law could work, the health secretary has said.

Matt Hancock, a vehement critic of anti-vaccination campaigners, has previously suggested such a plan. Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative party conference, he said he was “very worried” by falling vaccination rates, indicating the government could act soon.

“I’ve said before that we should be open-minded, and frankly, what I’d say is that when the state provides services to people then it’s a two-way street – you’ve got to take your responsibilities, too,” Hancock told the Q&A session hosted by the Huffington Post.

“So I think there’s a very strong argument for having compulsory vaccinations for children when they go to school, because otherwise they’re putting other children at risk.

“Then I’d want to make it very easy if the children do arrive at school not vaccinated, simply to get vaccinated, and make it the norm. But I think there’s a very strong argument for movement to compulsory vaccination, and I think the public would back us.”

He took aim at social media for spreading what he called ‘anti-vaccine messages’:

“It’s unbelievable, I think, that Britain has lost its measles-free status, and it should be a real wake-up call. I think that the social media companies have got a lot to answer for, because they allow the spread of anti-vaccine messages.

“I will do whatever I can – the science is absolutely clear and settled on the importance of vaccination. And the worst thing is that if you don’t vaccinate your child, and you can, then the person you’re putting at risk is not only your child but it’s also the child who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons.”

He had already started thinking about compulsory vaccines in May that year:

Hancock first raised the idea of compulsory vaccinations in May, saying he did not wish to do it but might be forced to act if no other solutions to improve take-up rates could be found.

He said: “Those who have promoted the anti-vaccination myth are morally reprehensible, deeply irresponsible and have blood on their hands.”

Confidence in the MMR vaccination seems to have dropped at least partly in response to social media misinformation and scare stories. The discredited claims of Andrew Wakefield, who in 1998 theorised that the jab was linked to autism, are widely circulated.

Wakefield was struck off the medical register in 2010 after suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

He also seemed to be interested in social care at that time. On June 10, 2019, Care Home Professional reported:

Matt Hancock has pledged a £3.5bn cash injection to prop up the social care system as he kick-starts his campaign to become the UK’s next prime minister.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said he would seek the extra funds in the next Spending Review …

The Health and Social Care Secretary described the current social care system as “unsustainable” and said there’s a “whole number of injustices” affecting society’s most vulnerable people.

“One of the biggest injustices is that for people who worked hard all their lives and have put money aside – the system penalises them and won’t fund their care without them having to sell the house, whereas people who haven’t put money aside get their care supported. I think this is very unfair,” he added …

He wanted to see individuals funding their own social care by contributing to a personal fund:

He stressed that the payments could be made over many years of a working life.

The scheme, which would be made voluntary, would require all workers over 40 to contribute 2.5% of their wages.

“I’d like to see people encouraged to take it out when they get their first mortgage – that being the point where many people buy life insurance,” the minister said.

The insurance scheme would do away with previous Conservative proposals to put a lifetime cap on care costs.

Cometh coronavirus, cometh the man — or not

We were only a fortnight into lockdown in the Spring of 2020, and already we could see Matt Hancock’s true character.

The televised Coronavirus Updates appeared almost daily on the BBC, and he was in most of them.

On April 12 that year, The Mail on Sunday‘s Peter Hitchens wrote ‘Matt Hancock is trying to run the UK like my 1950s prep school’:

Until I started travelling in the Communist world, my main experience of living under tyranny was my time at a boarding school on the edge of Dartmoor, 60 years ago.

The headmaster, an enormous, booming man, had many fine qualities. But he was given to dreadful rages, which tended to strike late on Saturday afternoons.

He would throb with fury because some of the more loutish boys had left their games clothes on the changing room floor. 

For some reason, he viewed this as a terrible crime closely related to murder. So he would summon us into the assembly hall, and harangue us as darkness fell outside

The more we stood mulishly in front of him, saying nothing and with our eyes downcast, the angrier he became …

Collective punishments – a ban on eating toast, or the cancellation of a promised film show – would follow, along with more shouting and angry notices in red ink, threatening worse to come. 

Most of us were guiltless of wrongdoing. But we were small, and he was huge. The staff seemed more scared of him than we were.

We were on a windswept hilltop miles from anywhere. We had no escape

Hancock wanted to ban outdoor exercise because it was violating social distancing rules, hastily put into place:

I had thought such childish things were long over in my life. But a week ago I found that I was, once again, living at the mercy of an equally petulant would-be despot.

Matthew Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, went on national TV to threaten to ban outdoor exercise if people continued to break ‘social distancing’ rules. 

From a Government that claims to be preserving life and health, this threat was literally mad. 

Banning exercise for any length of time will lead to the deaths and illness of many thousands of currently healthy, older people who know that such exercise is vital to their physical and mental wellbeing. 

Such exercise can easily be taken while maintaining the required distance from others. 

The threat was a dictatorial one, of collective punishment of all for the wrongdoing of others. 

This is illegal under Article 33 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. A foreign occupier would not be allowed to do it. 

Sunbathing and sitting on park benches also irked Hancock while the police were enjoying their newly-found powers over the public:

Mr Hancock also said it was ‘quite extraordinary’ that some people had spent the weekend sunbathing in public places despite it being against Government guidance.

Getting into his stride, he urged people not to sit down even for a minute on a park bench, saying those who disobeyed the rules were putting their own and others’ lives at risk.

What is this nonsense? The words of Ministers and the words and actions of the police show a pointlessly bossy side to these measuresthe attempted ban on Easter egg purchases, the sunbathing squad, alleged arrests of people for just buying wine and crisps, the lumpish threat by a police chief to search the baskets of shoppers

Provided the people doing these things do not break the distancing rules, why are they wrong? 

Sunbathing, for instance, probably reduces the risk of infection, and if people keep a proper distance apart, what on earth is wrong with it? Why shouldn’t someone sit on a park bench?

Mr Hancock said: ‘I say this to the small minority of people who are breaking the rules or pushing the boundaries: you are risking your own life and the lives of others and you’re making it harder for us all.’

Hitchens, who spent years working in Communist countries, hit the nail on the head:

I sense something more going on here

The Government are trying to get us to accept a far higher level of state intrusion in our lives than we have ever endured. 

They are treating us as if we were unruly children. This is despite what I regard as a quite extraordinary willingness among the great majority to do as we are asked. 

It has gone to their heads. They need to calm down, for the sake of all of us.

We are not children, this is not some 1950s prep school ruled by the swish of the cane, and Mr Hancock is not our headmaster.

Hitchens rightly questioned the number of deaths at that point, which were nothing unusual, coronavirus or not:

A week ago, at the daily official briefing, Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, confirmed my point that many deaths with Covid are not necessarily from Covid. She said: ‘These are Covid-associated deaths, they are all sad events, they would not all be a death as a result of Covid.’ 

What nobody says is how many are as a result of the virus.

Then, if you look at the Office for National Statistics weekly death charts, for week 13 of each year (the week which this year ended on March 27), you find some interesting things.

The total of deaths for that week in 2020 is higher than the five-year average for that time of year, which is 10,130. In fact, it is up to 11,141. 

This is 1,011 more deaths than normal per week, 144 more deaths than normal per day, regrettable but not gigantic. Do these figures justify the scale of our reaction?

If you add up the total deaths for the first quarter of the year from respiratory diseases, the figure so far for 2020 (22,877) is less than those for 2013 (25,495), 2015 (28,969), 2017 (25,800), 2018 (29,898) and 2019 (23,336)

Again, is this event as exceptional as we are being told? If not, why the shutdown?

Obtaining PPE was a huge problem, and not only for the UK. France, along with other Western countries, was also scrambling to secure PPE. I know from having read Marianne, a French newsweekly.

PPE popped up regularly in parliamentary debates. Labour asked repeatedly what the Government was doing and to get on with the job.

However, people who knew what was going on in the NHS said that things weren’t as bad as the Opposition benches made them out to be.

Sir Keir Starmer had only been Labour leader — succeeding Jeremy Corbyn — for a week or so in April. He was offended that Hancock told the NHS not to waste precious supplies:

However, those with connections inside the NHS said that a hoarding mentality was present and that there was an adequate provision of PPE:

On April 9, Hancock announced a testing lab in Milton Keynes, the Lighthouse Lab, a.k.a. the National Biosample Centre:

Meanwhile, many of us wanted an update on herd immunity.

On April 8, Guido Fawkes reported, complete with audio (emphases his):

As new modelling released by University College London (UCL) predicts the UK will pass the threshold for herd immunity by Monday (with 73.4% of the population protected either by vaccination or previous infection), Matt Hancock was quick to pour cold water on the findings during an interview with LBC‘s Nick Ferrari. Speaking this morning, Hancock said: 

I was told by some scientists that we were going to have herd immunity in May, and then in June, and then after that […] what I prefer to do is watch the data. And so we’ve set out the road map, the road map is really clear, it is our route back to normal, we’re on track to meet the road map, and that’s our goal.

Pressed on why the government seemed keen to accept the pessimistic assumptions within the Imperial College data, yet sceptical of UCL’s new study, Hancock – rather predictably – said:

I think we have taken the right course in plotting our way to freedom, and doing it carefully, because we want it to be irreversible. We have seen what happens when this virus gets going […] and we want to get out of this safely and irreversibly.

The ‘data not dates’ refrain feels less plausible with every passing day…

One Twitter user sounded the alarm:

When University College London, a respected establishment put out work saying we’ll hit herd immunity by Monday and Matt Hancock immediately dismisses it You know darker forces are at work here. He’s a member of Parliament that doesn’t work for the people, he works for Gates.

On April 23, exactly two months into lockdown, Hancock was enjoying his power over the British people. Meanwhile, some of us were beginning to worry about the economic downside of keeping everyone at home.

The Mail reported that there was no end in sight:

Matt Hancock tonight insisted the coronavirus lockdown must stay until there is no risk of a second peak – as scientists warned the outbreak might not be fading.

The Health Secretary vowed not to compromise the national effort against the disease as Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told the daily Downing Street briefing that while hospital occupancy rates had dipped in in London the picture in other parts of the UK was ‘more of a plateau’.  

The figures – along with another 828 deaths being declared in the UK – add weight to the arguments of those who want to err on the side of caution despite the devastation being wreaked on the economy.

At this point, Boris Johnson had been released from St Thomas’s Hospital from his near-death bout with the virus and was recuperating at Chequers. His wife Carrie, about to give birth to their first child, was with him.

Rifts were appearing as to how long lockdown should last:

Divisions have emerged between Cabinet ‘doves’ such as Mr Hancock and ‘hawks’ who believe the NHS has capacity and would prefer to loosen the draconian social distancing measures earlier.

The PM has intervened from his recuperation at Chequers to snuff out speculation about an imminent easing, with Downing Street making clear his priority is avoiding a ‘second peak’ in the outbreak. 

There are reports Mr Johnson’s inner circle has stopped using the phrase ‘exit strategy’ and instead wants to signal a ‘next phase’ of lockdown, with varying levels of restrictions set to continue for the rest of the year until the virus gets ‘close to eradication’ or a vaccine is found. Australia has successfully suppressed cases to very low numbers.

Scientists have been telling ministers behind the scenes that control of the outbreak is still so uncertain that even slight changes to the curbs on normal life could result in a disastrous flare-up. 

Mr Hancock said tonight:  ‘We have been clear that we will not risk lives by relaxing the social distancing rules before our five tests have been met. 

‘First, that the NHS can continue to cope, second, that the operational challenges can be met, third, that the daily death rate falls sustainably and consistently, fourth, that the rate of infection is decreasing, and most importantly, that there is no risk of a second peak.’  

The Mail included a photo montage of Cabinet members and this caption of where they stood on the issue:

How members of the cabinet are currently split over the ending of the lockdown. Mr Johnson (top left) and Matt Hancock (bottom left) are classed as ‘doves’; Michael Gove, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak (right, top-to-bottom) as ‘hawks’; and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (top centre) is among those in the middle, with Gavin Williamson (centre) and Alok Sharma (centre bottom)

Senior Conservative MPs wanted an end to lockdown:

There is no prospect of lockdown measures being eased before the current period comes to an end on May 11.

However, some senior Tories have been pushing plans for an easing soon afterwards, pointing out that the NHS is still below surge capacity and could ‘run hot’ to limit the economic meltdown.  

SAGE clearly wanted lockdown to continue:

Government scientists have been warning that the situation is currently so finely balanced that even marginal loosenings could have disastrous effects.

One Cabinet source told the Guardian the government’s advisers on Sage had suggested any easing would push up the rate of transmission – known as R.

The source said: ‘The scientists are very clear. There’s no loosening of measures we can do that won’t bring the R back over 1 … 

‘We did have an R of about 3. And we’ve driven that down. But even a small increase in transmission could put you above 1.’ 

The WHO were adamant that the Western world should remain locked down, even though some of those countries were already easing restrictions:

Dr Takeshi Kasai, the WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said: ‘This is not the time to be lax. Instead, we need to ready ourselves for a new way of living for the foreseeable future.’

He said governments must remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus and the lifting of lockdowns and other social distancing measures must be done gradually and strike the right balance between keeping people healthy and allowing economies to function.

Despite concerns from health officials, some US states have announced aggressive reopening plans, while Boeing and at least one other American heavy-equipment manufacturer resumed production.

Elsewhere around the world, step-by-step reopenings are under way in Europe, where the crisis has begun to ebb in places such as Italy, Spain and Germany.

By the last week in April, questions were mounting.

On April 23, The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope wondered why Hancock didn’t take any questions from the media after that day’s coronavirus briefing:

The next day, Hancock praised Muslims for their ‘sacrifice’ in not meeting daily for prayers during Ramadan, but had nothing to say to Christians who could not attend church on the holiest feast of the year, Easter, which remembers Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Houses of worship were closed:

Hancock began wearing a prominent CARE lapel badge on television. By this time, he had pledged that a ‘protective ring’ had been placed around care homes, something he later denied saying.

People found the CARE badge risible.

James Kirkup, writing for The Spectator, defended the move:

Matt Hancock’s badge for carers is a perfectly good idea. The mockery of it is in many cases shallow, ill-informed, revealing and hypocritical.

You don’t need me to describe the badge or the mockery. Anyone with an internet connection and a glancing familiarity with what passes for ‘news’ these days is aware that the Health – and Social Care – Secretary announced that the Government is now backing a scheme that encourages social care staff to wear a green badge saying CARE.

Part of the aim is to give care workers the same sort of recognition, esteem and access to services – reserved shopping hours, for instance – as NHS workers.

This is reasonable, necessary and overdue. Part of the UK’s social crisis lies in the social care workforce, which is too small and too transient. There are around 125,000 vacancies in social care at any moment, roughly eight per cent of the workforce. Turnover is around 30 per cent, double the average across the UK labour market.

Kings College London surveyed care workers and found that some said that teachers warned their children to do better in school, otherwise they’d end up working in care homes:

In a survey of care workers, the Kings’ team found that it wasn’t just society as a whole that looked down on care. It was care workers themselves. One of the most common phrases used by interviewees was ‘I’m only a care worker’. Many reported that their children had been told if they don’t work hard they would end up working in care. ‘The lack of esteem has been internalised,’ prof Manthorpe said. Our collective disregard for social care has left carers feeling worthless and keen to leave the sector, sometimes for jobs with equally poor wages.

The following year, after Hancock had urged all care workers to be vaccinated, a number of those who refused to do so were either fired or left for hospitality jobs.

John Pilger, writing for The Guardian, rightly predicted that a storm was brewing over PPE contracts and wasted money on testing:

A debate in Parliament took place just recently on the topic. Labour are still furious.

The prediction that came true

Former Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, now Lord Hannan, predicted exactly what would happen as early as April 5. He was incredibly accurate.

The Express reported:

Economist warned businesses would “topple like dominoes” if the lockdown remained in force until May, while pointing the finger at Public Health England for the failure to undertake a widespread programme of . The ardent Brexiteer, writing in The Sunday Telegraph, said the cost of the was hard to measure “but no less painful for that”. He explained: “One of my university contemporaries, who has a history of mental health problems, has struggled terribly with confinement.

“A neighbour is facing the grimmest of hat-tricks: her business ruined, her house-move frozen and her cancer operation postponed.

“The village osteopath, who went from 300 patients a week to zero when the bans came in, has been forced into insolvency.

“Nationally, a million more people have been pushed on to benefits.”

Mr Hannan also scoffed at the assertion stringent measures were required to minimise the number of people dying.

He said: “I am astonished by how many commentators duck these consequences by airily asserting that ‘lives matter more than the economy’.

“What do they imagine the economy is, if not the means by which people secure their welfare?

“The economy is not some numinous entity that exists outside human activity; it is the name we give to transactions among people aimed at maximising their wealth, health and happiness.”

If businesses – excluding those deemed likely to accelerate infections, such as nightclubs – were permitted to reopen next week, “we might yet escape the worst”, he asserted.

However, he added: “If the prohibitions remain in force into May, businesses will topple like dominoes, and a decade of depression will ensue.”

And so it came to pass.

To be continued next week.

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