Listening to ministers’ reactions to Omicron Covid in the last days, I felt a familiar sinking sensation.

Do you want me to put it in words? We are back, I thought.

Mask mandates have been reimposed in shops, schools and hairdressers, and new swingeing £200 fines will be levied on those who dare to break the rules.

Meanwhile, the inevitable chorus of gloomy voices has begun to sing again: that unholy alliance of scientific ‘experts’ who have been given blanket coverage by the BBC and Left-wing media so often during this pandemic.

The Government has used these voices as justification to impose fresh restrictions on our lives — as well as to threaten more in future.

The Government has used an unholy alliance of scientific ‘experts’ who have been given blanket coverage by the BBC and Left-wing media as justification to impose fresh restrictions on our lives — as well as to threaten more in future.

The Government has used an unholy alliance of scientific ‘experts’ who have been given blanket coverage by the BBC and Left-wing media as justification to impose fresh restrictions on our lives — as well as to threaten more in future.

Mask mandates have been reimposed in shops, schools and hairdressers, and new swingeing £200 fines will be levied on those who dare to break the rules

Mask mandates have been reimposed in shops, schools and hairdressers, and new swingeing £200 fines will be levied on those who dare to break the rules

Panicking

Now, the crucial question is: Are any of the new measures really necessary?

Yes, there remains much we don’t know about Omicron, but the early signs are distinctly encouraging. Many Omicron patients are reported to have quickly recovered from very mild symptoms.

The variant was discovered in Southern Africa. However, panicking has been avoided. One German epidemiologist, Professor Karl Lauterbach, who is running to be Germany’s next health minister, has even said that a mild strain would be an ‘early Christmas gift’.

Given all that, how much can the Government’s hawkish approach truly be justified?

It is very little I’d say.

Yes, there remains much we don’t know about Omicron, but the early signs are distinctly encouraging

Yes, there remains much we don’t know about Omicron, but the early signs are distinctly encouraging

Many patients have reportedly recovered quickly from what have been very mild symptoms

Reports indicate that many people have experienced rapid recovery from very mild symptoms.

Omicron and any coronavirus variant are not the real threat to most people. It comes instead from officials and ministers who seem to be tempted by taking us into another period of ruinous restrictions. They want to cancel Christmas and other beloved holidays. Also, they wish for us all the world to see how we can travel abroad.

Yes, there is a coronavirus variant that has been highly mutated. Prof Lauterbach is a respected clinical epidemiologist who suggested yesterday that it might be even good news. Why? Because its numerous mutations — twice as many as the Delta variant that swept the world this year — mean that though it may well be more infectious, it could also be less deadly.

In layman’s terms, this means that more people might catch it, but not suffer serious illness. And that is a good thing — certainly compared to a very infectious, very virulent virus with the capacity to sicken or kill large numbers of people.

Anyone infected with a ‘mild’ Covid virus — one unlikely to cause serious disease — will still develop antibodies to guard against future infection. And the more people with such antibodies, the closer we are to the fabled ‘herd immunity’.

This, coupled with the help of our highly successful vaccination programme, could even spell the eventual end of the pandemic — though not, it must be said, the end of Covid.

These are the kind of adult discussions ministers ought to be having. Instead, by announcing new restrictions over the weekend, flanked by his two familiar harbingers of doom, Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, the Prime Minister risked terrifying large swathes of the nation all over again — just as they were beginning to catch their breath as the worst of the pandemic was lifting.

Anyone infected with a ‘mild’ Covid virus — one unlikely to cause serious disease — will still develop antibodies to guard against future infection

Anyone infected with a ‘mild’ Covid virus — one unlikely to cause serious disease — will still develop antibodies to guard against future infection

Coronavirus restrictions are not meant to be used in isolation.

One year ago I had written in the Mail that I thought lockdown was worse than Covid-19. That view is still mine today.

From spiralling hospital waiting lists and delayed cancer treatment to the horrendous impact on the mental health of the nation, I think we are seeing the tip of an iceberg of premature deaths from causes other than Covid — and that, in time, history will reveal the second and third lockdowns, at least, for the folly I believe them to be. Before you think about the negative consequences of our economy’s sabotage: the destruction of livelihoods and the closure of High Street shops due to work-from-home mandates.

It is imperative that ministers do not go down that dangerous road again — unless some terrible new variant or new virus with a vastly higher death rate does emerge.

Even the most fervent lover of lockdown would be hard-pressed to describe today’s scenario as an Armageddon-in-the-making, especially as the virus is behaving exactly as scientists always suspected that it would.

As with the flu, there is a high chance that this virus will return in future years. There isn’t any evidence to suggest that these waves are ever-leaner. It is more likely that the virus will, as with most other pathogens, become less fatal over time.

Be cautious

This flies in the face of those who favour the ‘just-in-case’ argument: that we must be extra cautious and ready to lock down early again, lest the new variant prove more dangerous than anticipated.

This argument was valid when the pandemic began, but we didn’t have vaccines and treatments. However, it no longer applies.

We are now well versed in how our enemy works. Except for a handful of people who are unvaccinated, most people die from Covid. Others have experienced an impending death that was not imminent.

Public policy can’t be built on the idea of trying to reduce the death rate for someone who, however tragic, is due soon.

A long time ago, when I was a junior doctor working in A&E, I was initially amazed by the fact that among those admitted to hospital with flu and pneumonia symptoms were the young and fit. Flu virus is known to be a flu-like illness.

Just as with flu, it is likely that in years to come the world will experience new waves of this coronavirus

As with the flu, there is a high chance that this virus will return in future years.

A percentage of them would end up in intensive care, and a proportion would die — just as they do today.

Every death was tragic, however, it is not clear that this meant we should alter our health policies.

What a contrast with today, when we live in a country increasingly bedevilled by what the former Supreme Court judge Jonathan Sumption has rightly labelled ‘Covid authoritarianism’.

Paralysis

Flailing Labour politicians, desperate for any stick with which to beat the Government, demand ever-tougher measures: work-from-home advice and yet more masks, with new lockdowns and furlough schemes waiting in the politicians’ arsenal.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland exhorts citizens to work at home and demands stricter regulations down South.

We are not dealing with Ebola, which kills up to 90 per cent of those it infects, but a virus which was found in one Cambridge University study last summer — thanks to vaccinations and better treatments — to have an infection fatality rate of just 0.085 per cent

We are not dealing with Ebola, which kills up to 90 per cent of those it infects, but a virus which was found in one Cambridge University study last summer — thanks to vaccinations and better treatments — to have an infection fatality rate of just 0.085 per cent

We are all too willing to allow such Cassandralike prophecies to slip over our heads. But there are also many who are scared and feel like they are in permanent paralysis due the constant news coverage and politics shroud.

This phenomenon is evident in my friends. It is clear that there is a divide between people who think they need to move on and those who are still obsessed with Covid long after the worst has passed.

Yet get on we must. We are not dealing with Ebola, which kills up to 90 per cent of those it infects, but a virus which was found in one Cambridge University study last summer — thanks to vaccinations and better treatments — to have an infection fatality rate of just 0.085 per cent.

We must all keep an eye on this virus. We must keep our eyes open and maintain the sense of commonsense that is essential for a free society. 

Angus Dalgleish, an oncologist in a London teaching hospital is Angus Dalgleish