Uk Coronavirus Lockdown, Allister Heath, Matt Hancock, Coronavirus

Uk Coronavirus Lockdown, Allister Heath

We can’t let dodgy accounting lead us into a disastrous second lockdown

Tory MPs should force ministers to publish a full cost-benefit analysis for all Covid restrictions

10/29/2020 10:03:00 PM

'Before any further lockdown is ordered, MPs and the public should be given time to scrutinise and debate all of the numbers,' writes AllisterHeath

Tory MPs should force ministers to publish a full cost-benefit analysis for all Covid restrictions

But the horrible reality is that nothing any of the big countries has done has worked: the lockdowns didn’t kill the virus and didn’t really buy time to fix anything else; the vaccines aren’t ready and may never work; all health systems are inadequate in surge situations, including the French and German; hand-washing, social distancing and masks aren’t enough; Angela Merkel’s luck has run out; we are miles off herd immunity; we don’t have true mass testing; and no Western country has cracked track and trace – a beautiful, technophiliac idea that may in fact be little more than a 21st-century Maginot Line in an unwinnable war.

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Governments across almost all of the Western world are panicking: they have lost control, or never had it in the first place. They look aghast at America, where Joe Biden is about to oust Donald Trump because of Covid and his reaction to it, and they fear that they will be next. They feel unable to isolate the vulnerable, so they are returning to the one policy they all said they never wanted to resort to again – lockdowns – in a desperate bid to slow a seasonally-driven epidemic, send a signal that they are doing everything they can and hope that something, anything will turn up to save them.

Such internationally coordinated political back-covering isn’t a good reason to shut down again: it merely confirms that the self-interest of ruling elites isn’t aligned with that of the public. Hence governments’ nonsensical claim that the only outcome that matters is reducing excess death rates, which just happens to be the one measure used to rank pandemic performance internationally.

Yet fixating on a single metric in this way stinks of dodgy accounting of the most scandalous sort. It is not just financially illiterate but also staggeringly mendacious to point to only one side of a ledger to justify taking action.In the real world, there are profits and losses, assets and liabilities, benefits and costs. A company that reported its revenues without accounting for its costs would rightly be chased out of town, and yet that is exactly what the pro-lockdown forces are seeking to do.

Yes, shutting down society tomorrow would reduce deaths for a period (though the experience from the first and second waves suggests they would often be merely delayed, rather than actually saved). But estimates of lives preserved represent only one side of the picture, and even then very incompletely.

For a start, it is universally accepted throughout government accounting that not all “lives” are the same: callous as it may sound, in a world of limited resources where terrible choices have to be made, a gravely ill 95-year-old is less worth saving than a five-year-old healthy child.

Government accounting thus uses a concept known as quality-adjusted life years: one Qaly is equal to one year in perfect health, and is thought to be worth £30,000-£60,000. So an honest, competent number-cruncher seeking to work out the upside of a lockdown would compile estimates of the number of Qalies it would save, and the monetary value. They would plug in the various Sage estimates, as well as other forecasts – not just worst case scenarios – and produce a range of figures. My own guesstimates suggest a benefit of £15 billion from a winter lockdown, given the age of those affected.

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But such calculations cannot, on their own, justify anything. What is on the other side of the ledger? What are the countervailing costs? What will happen to jobs, businesses, families, friendships, hobbies, sports and normal life?Our honest accountant would put a cost on all of the good things foregone: a year’s unemployment would be worth (say) £20,000, a missed birthday party £1,000, a term’s missed schooling £10,000, a divorce £100,000 and so on. All of these assumptions would be explicitly stated, with explanations, justifications and all the calculations available for audit. My guesstimate is that this number would be bigger than the first, and that a rational observer would therefore judge that the costs of a lockdown are greater than its benefits.

I’m not usually a pure utilitarian, but this situation requires us to return to the works of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. The right course of action, they argued, is to maximise the overall good, defined as the sum of the happiness of everybody in society. We need to promote the greatest satisfaction of the greatest number, and minimise overall unhappiness. Everybody’s utility counts equally: we are not exclusively concerned with those who die, but must also account for the pain suffered by millions from lockdown itself.

If Tory MPs and lockdown sceptics want to make a difference, they should demand that the Government come clean on the costs of current and future restrictions. They should insist on sound accounting. They should force Matt Hancock to publish a properly researched, comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of all proposals, updated every two weeks. Officials must tell us how many Qualies they think they might save and the monetary value assigned to them, and set that against a detailed costing of the economic, social, personal, psychological and other hits from lockdown. Every assumption should be explicit and translated into a monetary sum.

Read more: The Telegraph »

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Lockdown will be replaced by bans on household mixing indoors for almost all of England next week.

AllisterHeath Does anyone ever change their mind, based on facts? AllisterHeath Apparently, a pandemic is a debating club challenge FranzK41367609 AllisterHeath The numbers are irrelevant. The public should fight to the death against the brutal, sadistic police and their fucking lockdown. AllisterHeath Time for the government to listen to reliable experts and ditch SAGE.

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John Penrose: Tory MP and husband of beleaguered Test and Trace boss blames 'chaotic parents' in free schools meals rowA Labour minister says John Penrose should look at the Test and Trace system if he wants to see 'what chaotic really is'. Typical out of touch Tory! Everything is everyone else’s fault! Coming from a guy who has probably never had the indignity of going hungry or had to decide whether to eat or feed his kids or needed to chose between making breakfast or getting to work on time or not get paid! What a fucking shambles Every MP who voted against FreeSchoolMeal should have to demonstrate how they would survive and feed their families when living on minimum wage or benefits, for a minimum of a week to see how they cope with the budgeting challenges.