Are we heading for a second wave of Covid-19 as gruelling as the first? Not according to unidentified government officials quoted in yesterday’s Mail. 

During an off-the-record briefing in which comments weren’t attributed to individuals, experts suggested the second wave won’t be nearly as bad as the first. This is not a view openly expressed by the Government. 

The officials believe that a combination of local lockdowns, social distancing measures and medical breakthroughs will substantially reduce both the death rate from Covid-19 and the number of cases over the coming months. 

Unidentified government officials believe the second wave of Covid-19 will not be as deadly as the first

Unidentified government officials believe the second wave of Covid-19 will not be as deadly as the first

Unidentified government officials believe the second wave of Covid-19 will not be as deadly as the first

If the experts are right, this is fantastically good news. Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, for example, has previously warned that a second wave might be worse than the first. 

On April 30, he said it was ‘plausible for a second wave to actually be more severe than the first if it is not mitigated’. Covid-19 was ‘a very long way’ from being finished off and ‘eradication was technically impossible’. 

Somehow Professor Whitty’s pessimism of a few months ago has given way, if not exactly to optimism, then to an appreciably less apocalyptic view on the part of government experts. 

Of course, the scientists could be wrong. They have been on several previous occasions. 

But even a casual look at what is happening in some European countries suggests the disease is less lethal than it was a few months ago. 

Cases have been rising sharply in France. On September 12, 10,561 new cases were recorded, about three times the rate on the same day in this country. 

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said it was 'plausible for a second wave to actually be more severe than the first if it is not mitigated'

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said it was 'plausible for a second wave to actually be more severe than the first if it is not mitigated'

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said it was ‘plausible for a second wave to actually be more severe than the first if it is not mitigated’

This was the highest ever daily figure, though one should bear in mind that, as in the UK, testing is far more extensive than it was in March and April, when many cases were missed. 

Nevertheless, on the day on which a record number of cases were registered, only 17 new deaths were recorded in France. Compare this with the 1,438 deaths logged on April 15, the highest ever daily figure. 

Possible explanations for the dramatically lowered French death rate include the likelihood that the disease is rampant among the younger generation, which is much less vulnerable, as well as improved hospital treatment. 

A similar pattern is observable in the United Kingdom, where the second wave, if it can be so described, is still lagging behind that of France. 

Yesterday, 3,991 new cases were announced — the highest figure since May 8 — and 20 new deaths. 

Only a fool would rule out a return to the horrific fatality figures recorded in March and April. If the virus should again run riot in care homes, the number of deaths will inevitably soar.

The UK has announced a further 14 Covid-19 deaths in the preliminary count, although the final figure can sometimes differ

The UK has announced a further 14 Covid-19 deaths in the preliminary count, although the final figure can sometimes differ

The UK has announced a further 14 Covid-19 deaths in the preliminary count, although the final figure can sometimes differ

And given that there is an average interval of about four weeks between contracting the disease and death, should it exceptionally occur, we could see a marked rise in fatalities over the next couple of weeks, reflecting the generally laid back attitude of many people towards the pandemic during August. 

All the same, there are good reasons for believing that we aren’t about to see a repeat of what happened in the spring, and that the unidentified officials are right to be cautiously upbeat. 

Why, then, does the Government proceed as though Covid-19 is as virulent as ever, and invite us to steel ourselves against an impending second wave that could be as serious as the first? 

Why don’t Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock pass on the scientific advice they are receiving about the probably less lethal nature of the disease over the coming months? 

That they aren’t prepared to level with us, and relax a bit, can scarcely be disputed. 

Why don't Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock pass on the scientific advice they are receiving about the probably less lethal nature of the disease over the coming months?

Why don't Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock pass on the scientific advice they are receiving about the probably less lethal nature of the disease over the coming months?

Why don’t Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock pass on the scientific advice they are receiving about the probably less lethal nature of the disease over the coming months?

On Monday, the ‘rule of six’ was introduced in England, Scotland and Wales with some variations between the three nations. Any social gathering of more than six people is illegal in England. A draconian and unpopular law. Illogical, too. 

   

More from Stephen Glover for the Daily Mail…

Over the past few days, I have attended a church service along with 60 others, sat in a meeting of seven people and taken part in my usual supermarket scrum with multiple participants. At least there hasn’t yet been another run on lavatory paper. 

Futile though it may be, the rule of six sends the message that the ‘second wave’ is with us and our liberties must therefore be curtailed again. 

As the number of cases and deaths edge up over coming weeks, as they surely will, it is possible a curfew will be introduced. 

I can imagine Mr Hancock standing up in the House of Commons, or perhaps paying one of his frequent visits to Radio 4’s Today programme, and declaring in his cocky way that the deteriorating situation calls for extreme measures. But does it? 

Or, more precisely, are things so awful that the Government should feel justified in reaching into its familiar armoury of coercive regulations, picking out new ones as though we are back, or nearly back, to the bad old days of March? I don’t think so. 

Although the PM insisted yesterday in front of a Commons committee that he was doing 'everything in my power' to avoid a second lockdown, I wish he had ruled it out altogether

Although the PM insisted yesterday in front of a Commons committee that he was doing 'everything in my power' to avoid a second lockdown, I wish he had ruled it out altogether

Although the PM insisted yesterday in front of a Commons committee that he was doing ‘everything in my power’ to avoid a second lockdown, I wish he had ruled it out altogether

Although the PM insisted yesterday in front of a Commons committee that he was doing ‘everything in my power’ to avoid a second lockdown, I wish he had ruled it out altogether. 

If officials are able to tell this newspaper, albeit off the record, that the second wave won’t be nearly as painful as the first, it’s hard to see why the Government can’t do the same to the entire nation on the record. Hard to see, but not impossible. 

I can think of three possible reasons for the Government’s reluctance to share the truth with us. The first is that it fears we will relax our guard if told the risk of death is significantly reduced. We are being treated like children. 

The second is that some ministers have grown rather fond of nannying us and bossing us about. Under the terms of the Coronavirus Act, they can pretty well make us do anything, short of standing on our heads, until it expires in March 2022. Some of them like that. 

Several Tories have forgotten all about liberty. Police minister Kit Malthouse advises us to call the police if our neighbours break the rule of six. Families who stop to chat in the street to talk to friends could be fined, according to Home Secretary Priti Patel. 

The third reason for the Government not levelling with us is that it is terrified of being blamed if it should declare that things are getting better — and they then turn out very badly. Candour is dangerous. 

None of these possible explanations seems very creditable. Doesn’t this country stand desperately in need of a dose of judicious optimism? Wouldn’t most of us like to be told there is a good chance we’re not heading back to hell — as long as we continue to observe social distancing and other sensible precautions? 

There is a danger that the public’s confidence in the authorities will crumble if a series of intrusive rules are applied which people think are neither effective nor necessary. 

Above all, the country needs to get back on its feet, and it won’t do so if the Government’s words and actions imply that storm clouds are descending, whereas in fact some of them are lifting. 

No one is saying the crisis is over. We may well be in for a bumpy few months. But I do wish the Government would treat us like grown-ups, and tell us the truth. 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here