A PROBLEM

WITH NUMBERS

On Jan 27 2021, the cover of most daily newspapers showed a picture of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, head hung in shame as the number of Coronavirus deaths passed the 100,000 mark. Johnson appeared to mourn every loss, knowing some must surely be down to his action – or inaction. Taking full responsibility, he looked beaten. ‘A grim total’, announced the newscasters. But is it an accurate one?

The figure demands closer scrutiny not just because it is the number being used to justify extended periods of lockdown and the vaccine rollout, but because with big numbers come huge anxieties, with many too afraid to leave their homes for fear of catching or transmitting the virus. These anxieties are compounded by NHS ads in broadsheets and on TV which demand that you ‘look them in the eyes and tell them you're doing all you can to stop the spread of Covid-19’. The BBC, ITV and Channel Four are all on board, spoon-feeding the dystopian narrative to a nightly captive audience who feast their eyeballs on flickering images of overstretched morgues, coffin shortages and eye-watering fatalities as they work their way through yet another case of wine in their new dressing gowns.

We’ve been here before. ‘Britain Faces Worst Flu Epidemic in 50 Years’ is how The Sun reported the 2017 Aussie Flu, ‘Killer Aussie Flu on Rise (Mirror)’, ‘Why Australian Flu is tearing through the UK’ (BBC). During the Swine Flu epidemic, if any doctors refused to work and the pandemic was severe, they were to be physically escorted to the surgery by the armed forces. When Covid-19 came along, those same GPs were instructed to leave the patient and close the door. There have always been seasonal flus. The press has always exaggerated them and the NHS will forever be under huge pressure in winter. The only difference with this pandemic, is that Governments stepped in.

It hasn’t worked. We are still in lockdown. Time to relook at the numbers.