Conspiracy theories, Covid and Hanlon’s Razor

‘Three great forces rule the world: stupidity, fear and greed’ (attributed to Einstein).

Former UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, shows a colleague how to correctly apply a face covering.

The principle of Hanlon’s razor tells us we shouldnever attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.’ Likewise, we should never attribute to conspiracy that which is more adequately explained by incompetence.

I don’t subscribe as a rule to a conspiracy theories. They usually entail too many agents coordinating too many activities that need to be kept secret from too many others. I don’t have sufficient faith in people’s abilities to accomplish anything as complex as this. I’m far more convinced that stupidity and after-the-fact attempts to hush-up and explain away incompetence more than adequately explain what might seem to be conspiracies.

And so to the UK government’s recent handling on pandemic restrictions. Has it been a conspiracy to control the little people (of which I’m one) or a bumbling from one measure to another, listening to the advice of SAGE scientists, a limited number of whom are epidemiologists or virologists (these are outnumbered by behavioural scientists and modellers) and dithering over the on-off lifting of restrictions?

The latter seems more likely. And yet politicians, being part of the elite, or indeed the elite personified, continue to impose restrictions on the masses that they consider have no application to themselves. It is easy to see how some feel there is a conspiracy afoot.

Some facts and figures to consider:

  • At the time of writing, 84% of the UK’s adult population has had at least one dose of the vaccine.
  • 63% have had two doses.
  • Vaccinations are available to everyone 18 years and over (from Gov.UK, 28th June 2021).

France has 28% of its population fully vaccinated. France is in the process of lifting all restrictions (by 9th July.)  Similarly, 42 US states have now declared themselves ‘fully reopened’.

With 60% of its adult population doubly vaccinated, the UK has still to embark on lifting remaining restrictions.

You are advised not to dance, sing or hug at weddings. Venues that don’t take steps to prevent these can be fined.

Hugging is fine if you are Health Minister and you are having an affair with your aide.

  • Scientific studies suggest that masks are not effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19 (see here, here and here). 
  • Unless medically exempt, you can be fined for not wearing a mask in indoor public spaces.
  • Mask wearing and social distancing are required even if you have had two vaccines. Unless you’re a world leader attending the G7 summit.

Controlled mass events, allowed as experiments, have not led to any significant increases in Covid infections.

Theatres, nightclubs and other venues are still not allowed to open.

  • You must quarantine at your own expense if returning from an amber designated country.
  • You do not need to quarantine on entering the UK if you are a world leader attending the G7 summit. You do not need quarantine on return to your own country, even if you and your entourage have caused a 2,450% increase in Covid infections in the area where the summit is held. 
  • You do not need to quarantine or self-isolate on entering the UK if you are a Eufa official or ‘VIP’ attending the final stages of the Euros at Wembley Stadium.

Either the UK has reached the point where Covid-19 restrictions need not be adhered to, or it hasn’t. Whichever it is, the remaining rules need to be applied equitably; the same across the board. They are not when the elite do not have to comply with the same legal requirements as the little people. One set of rules for them and another for everyone else is guaranteed to produce resentment and unrest. It leads to people taking the law into their own hands.

The evidence demonstrates that, thanks to a 83.3% uptake of the vaccine, Covid-19 is under control in the UK. While there are new infections, they are not proving to be as lethal as earlier strains of the virus; they are not overwhelming the NHS. If the rules do not apply to fornicating ministers, cavorting politicians and football’s VIPs, they do not apply to any of us.

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