But as the holes in Project Lockdown multiply, its advocates flap incoherently to keep their theory afloat. Not least in Britain, where the goal of lockdown lurches from “flattening the curve” to staving off a “second wave” – to, apparently, averting the first wave’s “second peak”. But if the UK’s hunger for second wave speculation has proved insatiable, the raw data is disappointingly bland: with countries across Asia, Europe and beyond opening up, the only countries experiencing material second waves are... Iran and Djibouti, where data lacks reliability to say the least.
The poorest look set to pay the highest price for lockdown hysteria: while half of people on £10 per hour face the sack, deprived areas in the North are predicted to be the worst hit by soaring joblessness. Meanwhile, in Italy, industrial jobs collapse and Spain’s endemic poverty spirals into an existential calamity.
Such too is the tragic arc of Covid-19’s story in the global south, where following in the West’s footsteps could yet ravage the vulnerable. Take Brazil. Western media’s relentless narrative that the country is gripped by an unprecedented coronavirus catastrophe because President Bolsonaro has been belligerently sceptical of lockdown is misleading. In fact, with deaths per million still five times lower than in Britain, and an economy weeks from total collapse, there is perhaps time yet for the West to lead a humanitarian effort to help Brazil and other Latin American countries.
We should be doing everything we can to help them isolate their vulnerable, placing them in Covid-free facilities if necessary, while the healthy carry on. Instead the WHO, in its disgraceful 25 May press conference, effectively sold poorer countries a defeatist half-truth: in the absence of “tremendous capacities” for measures like track and trace, their only hope is full-scale lockdown.
Which brings us to the central reality of this crisis, almost too horrific to consider: that the truth will out when it’s all too late. Is that now really the best we can hope for?