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Tags: united kingdom | government | covid-19 | lockdowns | fear | comply

UK Pushed 'Fear' on Lockdowns

man getting a covid test
(Getty Images)

By    |   Sunday, 05 March 2023 10:57 PM EST

The British government pushed "fear tactics" to ensure people complied with COVID-19 lockdowns.

In a report published by The Telegraph, the British publication outlines that among some 100,000 WhatsApp messages it obtained from British ministers, officials, and others, one set of messages showed former British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who served from 2018 to 2021, suggesting he wanted to "deploy" a new COVID-19 variant to "frighten the pants off" the public into complying with lockdowns.

In December 2020, two days after being informed of the emergence of a new variant known as the alpha or Kent variant, Hancock suggested in a WhatsApp conversation that the new strain would be helpful in preparing the ground for a looming lockdown by scaring people into compliance. Hancock's media adviser, Damon Poole, suggested that they could "roll pitch with the new strain" to prepare the ground for tougher restrictions in the run-up to Christmas 2020. Hancock replied, "We'd frighten the pants off everyone with the new strain."

Poole responded, "Yep that's what will get proper behaviour change."

The leak of the WhatsApp messages, known as the "Lockdown Files," also revealed that former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was wavering between being either a lockdown skeptic or a proponent but nonetheless was aware of his government's efforts to scare the public.

"What's the data like today? Tory narrative that we panicked too soon etc.," Johnson wrote two days after the United Kingdom's second national lockdown in November 2020.

The Telegraph notes in their report that psychologists were warning that the government's use of alleged "fear tactics" in health campaigns were "grossly unethical," which would contribute to excess non-COVID-19 deaths and increase anxiety disorders.

And in January 2021, Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, alongside Hancock, suggested that the "fear/guilt factor" would be "vital" in encouraging compliance with pandemic protocols.

The two politicians weighed different options, including mandating "more mask wearing ... in all settings outside home."

"Basically, we need to get compliance up," Case said. The cabinet secretary then noted that the fear campaign had to be tactful because adding some measures, such as a ban on fishing, "will be parodied galore if it looks like we have suddenly decided fishing is the first step towards tier 5!"

"I honestly wouldn't move on any small things unless we move on a lot," Hancock replied. "The only big remaining ... things are nurseries and workplaces."

"I agree," Case responded. "I think that is exactly right. Small stuff looks ridiculous. Ramping up messaging — the fear/guilt factor vital." The cabinet secretary then proposed that a "big public moment" would be to reopen the Nightingale hospital in London as an overflow facility for non-COVID-19 patients. But in reality, only a few such patients were ever admitted.

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The British government pushed "fear tactics" to ensure people complied with COVID-19 lockdowns.
united kingdom, government, covid-19, lockdowns, fear, comply
Sunday, 05 March 2023 10:57 PM
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