We Are Finally Entering A Phase Of COVID “Narrative Collapse”, Says Oxford Epidemiologist
Discussing the effects of lockdowns on children confirms that we are finally entering a phase of Covid ‘narrative collapse’…
It is now widely acknowledged that lockdowns caused immeasurable harm, particularly to children, and new research highlights that the interests of the young were forgotten by policymakers during the pandemic. Yet those who are now prepared to wring their hands about this situation are also adamant that lockdowns were unavoidable. Indeed, there is a general reluctance to criticise the very basis on which the measures that damaged children were adopted.
It is understandable that, during lockdown, some professionals were cautious so as not to antagonise those who had the power to put an end to these practices. But it is time to put such concerns aside and establish a rational framework that prevents such a disaster from recurring.
It was clear from the outset that the risk of dying from Sars-CoV-2 infection was negligible in healthy children. It follows that they did not need protection from infection.
Closing schools, forcing them to wear masks and endure the hardships of social distancing, and vaccinating them, could only be justified in terms of stopping community spread. None of these measures had a reasonable impact on the dynamics of infection.
So, is the lesson that, next time, we must lock down but keep schools open? Many of us would bargain for that, especially if we put higher education institutions into the mix, as young adults were also robbed of critical experiences at a delicate time in their lives. But by the time we implemented all these compassionate exclusions to lockdown, including the maintenance of all essential services, what we are looking at is the focused protection of the vulnerable rather than a policy that is effective against the spread of infection.
This is because there is no halfway house when it comes to halting the spread of a new pathogen. The curve between a full-scale lockdown and let-it-rip is anything but a steady slope.
It could be argued that the reason closing schools made hardly any difference was because lockdowns are, ultimately, an extremely ineffective way of stopping spread. Certainly, border closures can be used in very specific circumstances to prevent a pathogen from exiting or entering a community. But there were no credible empirical or theoretical reasons to believe that we could use social distancing measures to snuff it out once it was here. There were plenty of reasons to believe that trying to do so would cause a lot of harm.
The discussion around the effects of Covid policies on children confirms that we are entering a phase of “narrative collapse” in the perception of how the crisis was handled. But it still needs to be accepted that keeping a lid on the spread of Covid without closing schools is a fantasy; there is therefore no way to reconcile the philosophy of lockdown with avoidance of harm to children. The only coherent strategy is one of focused protection, in which vulnerable people are protected without imposing egregious costs on those not at risk.
It is my opinion that, rather than locking down earlier and harder, we should have put in place such a policy as soon as we were aware that the risks were so strongly stratified by age and linked to specific comorbidities. If the Covid Inquiry truly cares about the plight of the younger generation, it should be prepared to consider the option of immediately instituting focused protection, instead of being wedded to the notion that a rapid lockdown was the correct course.
Sunetra Gupta is professor of theoretical epidemiology at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
Wed, 06/28/2023 – 03:30