Each day, the statistics of reported cases and deaths from coronavirus are published by various sources.

While each fatality is a meaningful personal tragedy, the figures themselves are meaningless. On 09 June we were asked to believe that, while Belgium had suffered 9,606 deaths from 59,348 cases, Russia had 5,971 from 476,658 cases. There is no doubt about the recent increase in global mortality, but how many of them are a result of the actual measures imposed to combat the coronavirus?

These deaths are most likely included in the statistics as caused by viral infection. And to what extent have these measures really been necessary? They have been implemented to the inconvenience of the individual, and have adversely affected our way of life. Society cannot communicate and mix freely; almost every kind of business has been closed and public services suspended. Millions of individuals have been bottled up at home, starved of fresh air, exercise and regular nutrition. They have postponed urgently needed medical treatment, then had to wear masks, and may eventually be forced into vaccination with an unproven drug.

It is unfortunately necessary for health and care workers, dentists, hairdressers and prostitutes to wear masks all the time they are at work. But billions of unaffected people are wearing them in the streets– even when driving alone or sitting in their own homes. Used excessively or unnecessarily, this is not merely unhygienic, it is potentially dangerous. In many countries, this is possibly the cause of more deaths than coronavirus itself. The damage to the lungs through lack of proper oxygen and to the immune system through repeatedly inhaling exhaled breath must be incalculable. No wonder so many health workers, bus drivers, waiters, supermarket cashiers and elderly citizens are among the victims. Either they succumb to the virus or are recorded erroneously in its statistics.

In Spain, there has been the additional fear of draconian fines and aggressiveness by the police, totally disproportionate to trivial and often wrongly interpreted breaches. Certainly, offenders need to be penalised and deterred from re-offending, and the laws have been complicated and changing, but many officers have reacted to their confusion by abusing their powers. The huge fines have ruined the futures of numerous offenders. We have seen the plight of Venezuelans leaving the refuge of Colombia to return home to the chaos of their own country for fear of starvation resulting from unemployment.

Thousands of Peruvians are leaving Lima to walk back to their families and farms across the mountains for fear of infection. There is evidence of extreme hardship, determination and faith. We have also seen heart-warming acts of charity by Colombian and Peruvian strangers to feed them and help them on their way. The real tragedy is that total lockdown may not have been necessary at all. But we don’t know! This is why it is essential that we proceed with caution.

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