Gupta and her co-authors boast decades at the pinnacle of global science. Imposing lockdown measures across all age groups is having terrible health implications, they say – not least as the NHS has significantly restricted non-Covid treatments. We’re seeing “worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come”, the GDB says. And the impact on school children and students is “a grave injustice”.
Overall, it is the “the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden”, thunders the declaration, pointing to both the economic and health implications of society-wide lockdown. “Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage,” the GBD says, “with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.”
The declaration’s concept of “focused protection” suggests looking after the vulnerable by using care home staff who are already immune, delivering groceries to the elderly so they needn’t go shopping and families meeting older relatives outdoors instead of inside. “People who are more at risk may participate if they wish,” says the GBD, “while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.”
So while the elderly and others shield if they want to, helped by their families, friends and the rest of society, the rest of us carry on. “Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal,” says the declaration. “Schools and universities should open for in-person tuition… and young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home.” Restaurants and other businesses should open, the GBD argues, with the arts, music, sport and other cultural activities resuming too.
All this, of course, is anathema to a political and medical establishment that has backed non-discriminate lockdown – and is now tightening restrictions even more. While Downing Street counters the scientific basis of the GBD, others go for straight character assassination.
The GBD is “a libertarian agenda packaged as science… a manifesto for selfishness,” says Gupta’s Oxford colleague Professor Trisha Greenhalgh. NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens says, disgracefully, that focusing on voluntary shielding among the over-65s amounts to “age-based apartheid” – comparing the motives of distinguished scientists with an immoral, repressive regime of racial subjugation.
As the insults fly, more and more scientists, examining the actual data on Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths, are backing the GBD or similar strategies. Public opinion is also turning.
“I’m not a natural Telegraph reader, but I’ve been surprised by many of the people I’ve agreed with during this covid crisis”, writes Dan, emailing us on email@example.com. “Sunetra Gupta’s calm, measured manner has been admirable as she’s been vilified by fellow academics and media.”
Join us on our metaphorical capsule of common sense, by listening to the latest Planet Normal podcast, which comes out every Thursday. It’s free – at www.telegraph.co.uk/planetnormal or via iTunes, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.