Pro-lockdown experts criticised for trying to rebrand Covid restrictions as ‘protections’

Pro-lockdown scientists and medics have been criticised for seeking to rebrand Covid restrictions as ‘protections’ to make them more palatable to the public.

Members of Independent Sage, who have consistently called for tougher measures since the summer, have changed their language in recent months to draw a line between rules such as mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing compared with more extreme curtailments of freedom.

On Boxing Day, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland introduced various new curbs including rule of six, indoor capacity limits and physical distancing.

But commenting on the changes Dr Zubaida Haque, of Independent Sage said: “Emergency Covid public health measures are not restrictions, they’re protections.”

Dr Julia Patterson, of EveryDoctorUK also told Sky News on Monday that restrictions needed to be ‘framed differently’ so that people think about them as public health measures.

“We need to stop calling public health measures ‘restrictions’. They’re there to protect the vulnerable people in our society, who matter just as much as anyone else,” she said. 

“I know everybody’s wanted to take a Christmas break and it’s understandable that people are reluctant to think about these, as they are called, called restrictions. 

“But I think we need to frame them differently and think about them as public health measures which are going to protect people.”

However, her comments sparked a social media backlash, with critics describing the change of language as ‘disingenuous, desperate and clutching at straws’ and said the public would be irritated with the attempt to minimise the disruption.

Others branded the switch as ‘gaslighting’ ‘dishonest’ and ‘pure newspeak’ while some claimed the move as ‘silly at best, and sinister at worst.’ 

Some social media users pointed out that Dr Patterson’s company EveryDoctorUK sells facemasks for £12.50.

Scotland, along with Wales and Northern Ireland, introduced new restrictions on Boxing Day

Credit: Jeff J Mitchell
/Getty Images Europe

John Cotter, a lecturer in law at Keele University said that, in legal terms, the measures were, in fact, restrictions. 

Commenting directly on Dr Patterson’s comments, he said: “While this may be well intentioned, as a matter of law many of these measures are restrictions. 

“The question is – in the case of qualified rights like freedom of assembly  – whether they can be justified on public health grounds as proportionate, etc. 

“There are good reasons why the law is framed this way too. Such measures are exceptional, rather than the general rule. Reframing it as Dr Patterson suggests risks reversing this scheme.”

Mandatory measures to stop the spread of coronavirus are currently enshrined in law in the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) (No3) Regulations 2020, which continues until March 24 2022. 

Dr Anthony Cox, of The Medicines Safety Research Group (MSRG) at the University of Birmingham, added: “I’m all for sensible restrictions if they are needed, but this patronising idea that everything can be reframed into something fluffy is ludicrous, dishonest, and unnecessary. 

“No one will be fooled and public trust will be damaged.”

Others who have recently stopped using restrictions include Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, who introduced the new Boxing Day measures as ‘protections.’

Boris Johnson tweeted on Monday that Covid restrictions will not be tightened in England before the New Year

Credit: Simon Dawson/10 Downing Street

England is currently at odds with the other developed nations by only implementing guidance to work from home, although has made mask wearing obligatory in shops and other public settings, and brought in Covid passes to gain entry to large events.

The government is believed to be considering bringing in voluntary restrictions or stronger guidance,  to avoid having to deploy further mandated measures, and risk another damaging Tory rebellion if it moves to rules beyond Plan B measures.

However the Prime Minister has indicated he will not hesitate to act after Christmas if admissions and cases do not show signs of slowing. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *