Sadly I only managed to listen to a very short part of the programme last night when the subject of COVID-19 was being discussed. I was left wondering how two people who clearly have a high profile and in one case a powerful role, indeed who tried to become Prime Minister in 2016, managed to say such nonsense and not get removed from the programme. Indeed looking at the list of people one wonders how such an unbalanced group was in the programme in the first place. Although the subject I heard did not relate to Brexit issues, when there was Andrea Leadsom, Liam Halligan and Claire Fox all on the same platform the idea that such a subject would have been reasonably covered seems very concerning. Wes Streeting would have been the only person who would have had a different opinion on such a theme and indeed in terms of many other political issues. Surely the point of a programme like this is to bring some balance and by all means to regularly include politicians from Labour and Conservative Parties but then to add in a Brexit member and a Telegraph Journalist seems to badly handle a great many questions that could arise from the people who listen to it.
The COVID-19 discussion was the first one on the programme and it started with the question “Which is now the biggest risk for the UK, COVID-19 or the fear of COVID-19?” which led to comments by Wes Streeting following on from those by Claire Fox and Andrea Leadsom. The main theme from Wes Streeting was to explain that the lack of a Track and Trace scheme in the UK was damaging both our health and our fear and I would agree that this is true. So following on from all of the three formal politicians Chris Mason then invited Liam Halligan to respond and his argument was that the number of deaths in the UK due to COVID-19 was not significant and we needed to remove any sense that it was.
In my view the lockdown has gone on for too long…..Rather than half a million fatalities as we were told at the beginning from that modelling there has been about 44,000….. but if you add together the Winter and Spring, the death rate controlled by population over the last 25 years or so I am afraid this is not an exceptional year in terms of death, that’s what the numbers statistically show
So his comments were then responded to by Andrea Leadsom who instead of pointing out that the official number of Coronavirus deaths is actually more than twice the original expectations set out by SAGE as the maximum of 20,000. (In addition there are a significant number of deaths that occurred in peoples homes and in some care homes that were not identified as COVID-19. These would add 5,000 – 20,000 onto the official number). That had we reached only 20,000 that this would still have been very significant. However rather than accepting that her Government had made a number of mistakes such as over the Track and Trace and the number of deaths Leadsom claimed that the Government had acted effectively and due to their lockdown arrangements that the R rate was now less than 1 so this was something to be pleased about.
Given that Leadsom was allowed to respond a second time, Fox then claimed that the lockdown had gone on too long (to confirm the view by Halligan). Thankfully Streeting then got a second opportunity and he disagreed that it was too long, given how deaths were taking place but he pointed out that it was too slow which is arguably one of the reasons we have had so many deaths. We then heard another contribution from Halligan who focused on the economy but also managed to explain how Sweden had done much better when it came to COVID-19 because they did not hold a lockdown and did not have very many deaths. Given he had initially claimed that 44,000 deaths was not a significant number to point out that 5,500 deaths in Sweden (he did not refer to the numbers) was much more effective raises a range of matters. Given the population in Sweden, it would be the equivalent to around 38,000 deaths in the UK so there is not a clear case from Sweden. However there are other locations that have been much more effective because unlike Sweden they carried out an effective lockdown and indeed had we done so, we may be facing a much less severe set of experiences.
Let us hope that next week, that Chris Mason will invite a more balanced group of speakers for his programme?