Lockdown is a blunt, indiscriminate policy that forces the poorest and most vulnerable people to bear the brunt of the fight against coronavirus. As an infectious diseases epidemiologist, I believe there has to be a better way.
That is why, earlier this month, with two other international scientists, I co-authored a proposal for an alternative approach — one that shields those most at risk while enabling the rest of the population to resume their ordinary lives to some extent.
I expected debate and disagreement about our ideas, published as the Great Barrington Declaration.
Professor Sunetra Gupta (pictured) said at the heart of their proposal is the recognition that mass lockdowns cause enormous damage for the poorest and disadvantaged
As a scientist, I would welcome that. After all, science progresses through its ideas and counter-ideas.
But I was utterly unprepared for the onslaught of insults, personal criticism, intimidation and threats that met our proposal. The level of vitriol and hostility, not just from members of the public online but from journalists and academics, has horrified me.
I am not a politician. The hurly-burly of political life and being in the eye of the media do not appeal to me at all.
I am first and foremost a scientist; one who is far more comfortable sitting in my office or laboratory than in front of a television camera.
Of course, I do have deeply held political ideals — ones that I would describe as inherently Left-wing. I would not, it is fair to say, normally align myself with the Daily Mail.
I have strong views about the distribution of wealth, about the importance of the Welfare State, about the need for publicly owned utilities and government investment in nationalised industries.
But Covid-19 is not a political phenomenon. It is a public health issue — indeed, it is one so serious that the response to it has already led to a humanitarian crisis. So I have been aghast to see a political rift open up, with outright abuse meted out to those who, like me, question the orthodoxy. …