UNHERD - Dec 26, 2020 -
FREDDIE SAYERS -
Professor Neil Ferguson has given an extraordinary interview to Tom Whipple at The Times, in which he confirms the degree to which he believes that imitating China’s lockdown policies at the start of 2020 changed the parameters of what Western societies consider acceptable.
“I think people’s sense of what is possible in terms of control changed quite dramatically between January and March,” Professor Ferguson says. When SAGE observed the “innovative intervention” out of China, of locking entire communities down and not permitting them to leave their homes, they initially presumed it would not be an available option in a liberal Western democracy:
"It’s a communist one party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought… and then Italy did it. And we realised we could."
- PROFESSOR NEIL FERGUSON, THE TIMES
He almost seems at pains to emphasise the Chinese derivation of the lockdown concept, returning to it later in the interview:
“These days, lockdown feels inevitable. It was, he reminds me, anything but. “If China had not done it,” he says, “the year would have been very different.””
To those people who, still now, object to lockdowns on civil liberties principles, this will be a chilling reminder of the centrality of the authoritarian Chinese model in influencing global policy in this historic year.
The Manaus Conundrum
Also contained within the same interview is a passage about Manaus, the city in the Brazilian rainforest that has come to be referred to as a counter-example of what might have happened with minimal interventions. Whipple refers to “an orthodoxy on some sections of the Right” that Professor Ferguson got his initial predictions wrong, but asserts that the experience in Manaus comes close to proving him right.