IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I hope the scientists have got their sums right

I hope the scientists have got their sums right: IAIN DUNCAN SMITH fears collective failure in response to the virus will leave the UK and others teetering on the edge of economic and political disaster

So it turns out – we learn, courtesy of Michael Gove – that this lockdown could be much longer than the four weeks initially announced, perhaps even stretching beyond December.

Small wonder that many of us are deeply concerned that this begins to look like a re-run of the March lockdown, which – you may recall – began as three weeks but ended up lasting well over three months.

I supported the PM’s regional tiered strategy in the belief that he was correctly balancing the wider needs of the country against the threat of the virus spreading. 

Trying, as far as possible, to keep the economy open whilst focusing on those areas with the highest infection rates wasn’t a perfect solution, but it kept people’s hopes up. Now those hopes have been dashed.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I supported the PM’s regional tiered strategy in the belief that he was correctly balancing the wider needs of the country against the threat of the virus spreading

I still feel, after seeing the Sage data, that we should have stuck with this plan – even increasing, if necessary, the levels of action in specific areas as is now happening in Scotland.

It seems harsh to punish the whole of England when many areas could be at tier levels which might well bring this under control. 

After all, there is evidence that it was working in a number of areas as infection rates were flattening.

This while no less a body than the World Health Organization warns us that all world leaders should stop using lockdown as their primary control method.

Yet Sage has presented us with forecasts of such frightening magnitude that these considerations have been swept aside.

I begin to wonder how often the epidemiologists, who always claim to be right, get their forecasts wrong. Strange how this self-selecting group gets to mark its own homework.

I am concerned by the thought that we might have been bounced into something on the basis of a flawed prospectus.

I would hate to discover further down the line that Sage’s blood-curdling warnings of apocalyptic levels of infection and death were not based on data that was reasonable, fair and correct.

Because if it turns out to be out of date or defective in some other way, we will have struck the wrong balance between saving lives and ruining lives.

Make no mistake, the consequences – in terms of the human cost of closing hospitals to non-Covid patients, and the economic pain caused by the destruction of businesses – will be horrific.

Furthermore, Sage is dismissive of the reasons that Japan, Sweden, or even Taiwan have managed their responses to the pandemic so differently and well. 

They seem myopically determined, for reasons of their own, not to carry out a proper analysis of these success stories.

The Government’s new measures will be put to a Commons vote later this week, and I will need to be certain that the data is fair and accurate, leaving no other alternative, before supporting such a drastic step as full lockdown.

I fear I will not be the only Conservative MP with reservations. There is a lot of anger about the way we were asked to defend the Government’s tier system against attacks by the Labour Party, only for us now to be called upon to support a policy that goes well beyond what the Opposition were promoting last month.

As we prepare to lock down again, I fear that our collective failure in our response to the virus will leave the UK and others in the West desperately weakened, teetering on the edge of economic and political disaster.

And as I cast my eyes across to a newly resurgent China, whose economy is set to grow by at least 7.5 per cent next year, I ask the question: who will be capable of advancing the cause of freedom against the onwards march of totalitarianism?

Sir Iain Duncan Smith is a former leader of the Conservative Party

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