Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Quick Look at the Let Covid Rip argument

A few influential extreme right-wing journalists like Julia Hartley-Brewer, Peter Hitchens and Isabel Oakeshott are getting hysterical over the current lockdown. There are several strands to their argument, such as Covid is no worse than the flu (wrong) and that masks are muzzles (daft) but one key argument is that we should just let it rip. 


The Let it Rip group lost the argument in Cabinet back in February 2020, but did not give up. 

In fact their policies may have been influencing the implementation of Johnson's C19 response, which would explain the many failures of Johnson's response to Covid, notably of Test and Trace .
 
Under Let if Rip, vulnerable people (elderly, hypertensives, smokers, obese, diabetics, cancer patients, etc) just hide away as best they can for the foreseeable future, and others carry on as normal, and the disease spreads rapidly among them without any hindrance.

This is like saying that everyone can pee in the swimming pool, but people who do not like swimming in dilute urine should just stay in one corner of the pool. All the vulnerable people listed above have relatives who are out there in society. Do they stay away from their vulnerable friends and relatives, or do they freely visit, with the chance of infecting them and causing them to die?

Life is not quite so simple as  journalists imagine.

Then there is the matter of exponential growth. The mathematical laws of exponential series means that the disease will spread very rapidly indeed, so a large segment of the working population will be ill to a varying degree - some mildly, some so severely that they cannot work. This in itself will affect the economy.

So what do we do with these very large numbers of ill people?
Do we try to treat them in hospital, or do we leave them at home?

If we try to treat them, the hospitals will soon be full of C19 patients.

This means that NHS staff will become ill, and elective work will stop, which is one of the main criticisms that Covid sceptics level against public health policies.

We could try to separate the NHS into Covid and non-Covid. We do have designated C19 hospitals, the Nightingale hospitals, but the fact is that we do not have enough staff to manage them. Also C19 would inevitably get into "clean" hospitals and attack staff and patients there. 

The alternative is that we do not try to treat your C19 (unless of course you are in the elite). If you get infected, the rule is you go home and sweat it out untreated. You may recover after a mild flu like illness, or you may die.

C19 is not a pleasant way to go.

This latter solution means giving up on the philosophy not just of the NHS, but of medicine and humanitarianism itself.

But hey, the ideology of libertarianism is the supreme ideology of all time, isn't it? It overrules every other philosophical and ethical concept?


So there we have a rough working out of the Let it Rip approach to Covid-19. 

There are many other aspects to it. Notably that Britain may find itself economically and socially isolated and quarantined from the rest of the world.

It would be good if journalists and interviewers would challenge Let It Rip advocates to spell out exactly what they are proposing, and if they would press for everyone to behave rationally and responsibly to do all we can to limit transmission: Hands, Face, Space, limit contacts, work from home if possible, and of course, press Johnson to set up an effective local Track and Trace system.

And set up Covid Air Management Systems for C19 patients everywhere. 
And PerSo units for all Nurses, Medics and other HCWs. And Air Dynamics Systems in all public spaces. 

And prioritise vaccines for front line health care workers, teachers, security guards, drivers, chefs and others who are vital to the continuation of the economy. 

But of course this will not happen, because this is Britain, where the ideology of Individualism is supreme.

Our destiny as a nation seems to be to provide the world with an object lesson in the absolute bitter end failure of the foolish ideology of individualism .

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