• Dr Hugh Willbourn

#16 Let’s make the next lockdown useful

Updated: Nov 18, 2020


The UK Government has stated that on the 2nd of December it will lift lockdown restrictions. Maybe it will. However experience suggests that sooner or later another lockdown will follow. We should be prepared to use it to gain solid, up-to-date information about the dangers of Covid-19.


Sceptics believe that the coronavirus situation is not an unusual threat. They believe the mortality rate is within the normal range of influenza, but skewed more towards the elderly and those with co-morbidities.


Lockdown believers are quite sure that without all the current non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) – lockdowns, masks, social distancing and so on – the death toll would be many thousands higher. They believe that NPIs have saved lives.


Sceptics claim that Sweden and South Dakota show that lockdowns are unnecessary. Advocates claim the opposite or at least that the evidence is not strong enough or it is about to change. Everyone claims the science is on their side. So let’s do some science. Let’s do a proper experiment.

We need a test sample and a control. We can use the locked-down population of the UK as our control. The test sample should include all ages, people who have tested negative, people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and others who have not been tested. Each segment should be in proportion to the population as a whole, so the sample is representative and it must be large enough to be significant. We need to isolate our sample completely from the rest of the world.


The isolated sample should then socialise without masks or hand sanitizer or social distancing. They should go to restaurants and bars and concerts and shows and dances and play sport and flirt and meet strangers and gather in large groups and shake hands and hold hands and do all the things people used to do before Sars-Cov-2 was identified.


At the end of their isolation the morbidity (illnesses) and mortality (deaths) of our sample must be accurately measured and compared to (a) their initial state, (b) the locked down population and (c) the predictions of epidemiologists who claim that excess deaths and morbidity will arise without lockdowns.


Q. How can we do this?

A. Simple. Use one of the many cruise ships currently lying idle and costing money.


A precursor of this experiment was the Diamond Princess, but the significance of the infection and the data there remain disputed, and furthermore it could be argued that the virus has mutated since that event.


To ensure that the findings of this experiment are accepted by all sides scientists who are lockdown enthusiasts should be invited to participate in the research design to ensure the sample is open to the consequences that the lockdowns are designed to avoid.


Several cruise ships are accessible close at anchor in Weymouth Bay. With a sample on board the ship could go on a two week trip to nowhere, or even to somewhere that is still within the permitted travel corridor if such a place exists at the time.


A draft outline of the requirements of the experiment is as follows:

  • Two thousand volunteers of all ages, including the elderly and young families from all over the UK, who would rather spend two weeks of lockdown socializing on a cruise, rather than staying at home and following the national restrictions mandated by the UK Government

  • Unless alternative funding can be found the volunteers should be will to pay an “at cost” fee for their cruise

  • A director of a cruise liner company who has the authority and willingness to organise the sailing of one of their ships which would otherwise be sitting at anchor gently costing money.

  • 1,000+ crew members, including all the usual entertainers. Most cruise ships source the majority of their crew from Asian countries such as the Philippines so willing crew members will have to be recruited and flown in especially for this sailing.

  • The crew will necessarily also be part of the sample as they will interact normally with each other and with passengers.

  • A team of willing medics – perhaps two or three GPs and four or five nurses

  • A further testing team to conduct pre- and post-sailing assessments

  • A team of medical researchers who are willing formally to design the experiment so the findings are robust and it meets the criteria for academic publication.

  • A lockdown advocate to posit the range of outcomes that they expect from this experiment

  • A lockdown sceptic to posit the range of outcomes that they expect from this experiment

  • An insurance company willing to offer ship, crew and travel insurance, excepting all Covid related claims.

  • All participants would have to sign a disclaimer waiving any rights to sue anyone for any covid related ailment.

The crew would be paid and the passengers would have a sociable holiday aboard a luxurious ship enjoying the facilities, dining, and meeting new friends in a manner that is impossible under lockdown.


Many people will think this is idea is fantastical and far too big and difficult to organise. They may say it is outrageous, far-fetched, absurd, ludicrous, dangerous, life-threatening and obscenely expensive. The same could be said of lockdowns.


Some might also think the plan is impractical. Who would be willing to give up two weeks of their life to cruise round in circles in international waters while being stalked by a virus with no possibility of escape? On the other hand the alternative of quasi-house arrest might seem worse. Perhaps a good place to recruit volunteers would be amongst the readership of this article about a study which showed that personnel in a strict lockdown contracted more infections than the control group.

One could also seek volunteers amongst the readership of lockdownsceptics.org or in the membership of the Time for Recovery Campaign, or the many other anti-lockdown groups and associations. It is likely that there are many ‘shy’ sceptics who do not believe the official covid narrative but do not wish to risk ostracisation. An obvious non-partisan channel of recruitment for such volunteers would be the mailing lists of the cruise companies.


In order for the world at large to take it seriously, the study would need to be designed, or at least approved and co-authored by someone of irreproachable academic standing, for example a Professor of evidence-based medicine. Unfortunately in times like this such people are very busy indeed, but perhaps they could recommend appropriate members from their teams.


However, to return to my initial observation, it is very much in vogue to be telling other people what to do these days. In that spirit, may I request that if any reader happens to be a director of Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line or Royal Caribbean Cruises

please do a rough costing of this experiment. You could also estimate the upside if the experiment demonstrated that lockdowns were unnecessary and the holiday cruise business could safely restart.

Qualified academics and researchers whose interest is piqued could sketch out a plan and a costing too. It would be a good use of time during this lockdown to design an experiment that might just ensure that the next one is the last.




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