Luke Johnson, well known as a serial entrepreneur, including Pizza Express (hugely successful) and Patisserie Valerie (lees so), has a piece in the Sunday Times arguing the lockdown has been a huge mistake. I first met Luke when he was a participant on a series of programmes I ran for Investment Analysts at Kleinwort Benson. He was then a young analyst and I was a young Business School teacher.
The main arguments he makes are as follows:
- The government will be lucky to borrow the money spent bailing out the economy
- There is the collateral damage of thousands of unnecessary deaths from cancer, heart disease and other killers that have been neglected, and the awful toll on mental health and education.
- Lockdown and “Save the NHS” mania meant that the authorities failed to protect those in care homes and even introduced the disease by decanting patients from NHS beds.
- We must fight the tyranny of models. Theoretical projections such as Professor Neil Ferguson’s 500,000 deaths terrified the government and the public, triggering lockdown, with untold collateral damage to our wellbeing and liberties. Imperial College London predicted 2.2 million deaths in the US — a similarly overblown and inflammatory number.
- The idea of schools not opening until September is ludicrous, given that only three people under 19 without existing comorbidities have died in England from the virus.
- The incompetent responses by government to the virus demonstrate that, even in a crisis, the public sector and command-and-control do not necessarily work well. From lockdown to the testing fiasco, from mad ideas such as two-metre social distancing and two-week quarantines, the decisions have been incoherent, arbitrary and often flawed.
- Lockdown is an utterly unproven policy, with negligible research demonstrating that it works, while countries that did not lock down, such as Japan, Sweden and Iceland, provide evidence that other, less damaging, interventions can be more effective.
I am afraid I could not agree more. Of those of my colleagues who I most respect for their intellectual ability and independent thought they, almost as one, have argued from the start of this episode that the government were on the wrong track and it would end in us being in a much worse state than we would have been under a different policy.