The news that a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has resigned from that agency because he chose to ignore the recommendations that they along with the Conservative Government set out six weeks ago has of course filled the front pages of most newspapers today. Given that not all politicians agree with the concept of lockdown it is perhaps not a shock that one of them is now using this rather unusual case to argue once again that we should never have been locked down. The reality is that whatever the actions of one person are, that SAGE consisted of around 23 people and their proposals and recommendations were embraced by a number of Ministers and SpAds and it was the Ministers including the Prime Minister who made the final decision and announcements. Whilst there are 20+ members of SAGE, they have one Chair who is Patrick Vallance and there are around 20+ members of the high level Cabinet with one Prime Minister who is Boris Johnson and one Health Minister who is Matthew Hancock and all three of these men can be held accountable for the decisions, even though the they are not soley responsible for the decisions themselves, just like Neil Ferguson was not, despite Hannans tweet. Clearly Ferguson is not one of these three senior leaders even though in mid-March he was the author of an Imperial College report which argued that stringent social distancing would reduce the number of UK C-19 deaths.
Given that Hannan’s claim is that SAGE and the Government have “condemned 65 million of us to house arrest” there are all sorts of elements of his words that require a bit more unpacking. It is certainly true that all the people in our nation have been asked to remain at home apart from shopping, work and exercise. This is very different to the nature of an arrest which leads to being held in custody or released on bail although of course bail can have certain restrictions, but these apply to the individuals, not to society as a whole. On the other hand there can be very rare cases where people are told to remain at home or avoid certain locations because of the threat that they face if they ignore those recommendations. This is a much closer comparison to the COVID-19 arrangement. Clearly people have been asked to work at home if at all possible and a wide range of us have been told to not go to work if we cannot work at home because what we do is not considered essential by comparison to the protection of our nation. These matters are all an effort to protect us from being impacted by a medical condition that according to the Government has killed at least 29,427 people and they also have identified another 165,563 people who had COVID-19 out of a total of 1.015 Million people who have all been tested so far. It may well have been that many more or indeed not many more people would have died had we not gone for lockdown, it is very hard to know this. Clearly we may find that out in the future. However to suggest this scheme is condemning any of us is entirely ridiculous. Protection is the reason, not blame or law breaking.
It is of course true that along with Neil Ferguson that at least two politicians have ignored the approach that Daniel claims is a house arrest that he suggests the rest of us were condemned to. So if he wants to focus on the people who form the SAGE and Cabinet and who have then chosen to reject their own demands he along with the Government should focus on all three. We know that Robert Jenrick who is the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on at least one occasion travelled more than an hour to his parents home and his second home despite the fact that he had told us all to stay at our main homes. We also know that Boris Johnson has been in ‘House Arrest’ in at least three locations (No 10, Chequers and one other location at the beginning of this process). Perhaps Mr Hannan would be willing to challenge Mr Johnson and Mr Jenrick as well as Prof Ferguson if he is serious about challenging the approach which he clearly finds offensive. Of course doing so may bring him into a bit more challenge from the party he is a keen member of, indeed perhaps some of his party colleagues could challenge him over this tweet!