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More than two years since the lockdowns of 2020, the political mainstream, particularly on the Left, is just beginning to realise that the response to Covid was an unprecedented catastrophe.

But that realisation hasn't taken the form of a mea culpa. Far from it. On the contrary, in order to see that reality is starting to dawn on the mainstream Left, one must read between the lines of how their narrative on the response to Covid has evolved over the past two years.

The narrative now goes something like this:
Lockdowns never really happened, because governments never actually locked people in their homes; but if there were lockdowns, then they saved millions of lives and would have saved even more if only they'd been stricter; but if there was any collateral damage, then that damage was an inevitable consequence of the fear from the virus independent of the lockdowns; and even when things were shut down, the rules weren't very strict; but even when the rules were strict, we didn't really support them.
Put simply, the prevailing narrative of the mainstream Left is that any upside from the response to Covid is attributable to the state-ordered closures and mandates that they supported, while any downside was an inevitable consequence of the virus independent of any state-ordered closures and mandates which never happened and which anyway they never supported. Got it? Good.

This perplexing narrative was perfectly encapsulated in a recent viral tweet by a history professor who griped about the difficulty of convincing his students that government mandates had nothing to do with the fact that they couldn't leave their homes in 2020.
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Similarly, in an interview with Bill Maher, celebrity scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson argued that we can't assess the effects of lockdowns and mandates because the counterexamples, like Sweden, are too different to be applicable. (Starting at 2:15).

Likewise, astonishingly, in a debate on Monday, Charlie Crist, Democratic candidate for Governor of Florida, accused Ron DeSantis of being "the only Governor in the history of Florida that's ever shut down our schools". "You're the only Governor in the history of Florida that shut down our businesses," Crist went on, "I never did that as Governor. You're the one who's the shutdown guy."

In fact, as DeSantis pointed out, Crist had publicly sued DeSantis to keep kids out of school in 2020, and he wrote DeSantis a letter in July 2020 saying the entire state should still be in lockdown.

Arguments like these are as facile as they are transparent. Does anyone honestly think these people would be arguing that lockdowns didn't happen, or that it's impossible to measure their effects, if the policy had been a success?

As is extraordinarily well-documented by data, video evidence, news reports, government orders, testimonial evidence and living memory, the strict lockdowns of spring 2020 were all too real. And few people publicly opposed them.

As former UN Assistant Secretary-General Ramesh Thakur has documented in meticulous detail, the harms that lockdowns would cause were all well-known and reported when they were first adopted as policy in early 2020. These included accurate estimates of deaths due to delayed medical operations, a mental health crisis, drug overdoses, an economic recession, global poverty and hunger. In March 2020, the Dutch government commissioned a cost-benefit analysis concluding that the health damage from lockdowns - let alone the economic damage - would be six times greater than the benefit.

Yet regardless, for reasons we're still only beginning to understand, key officials, media entities, billionaires and international organisations advocated the broad imposition of these unprecedented, devastating policies from the earliest possible date. The resulting scenes were horrific and dystopian.

People lined up outdoors in freezing temperatures to get food. In many cities, still-sick patients were tossed out of hospital beds and sent back to nursing homes.