It is still not clear to me how a seasonal epidemic earlier this year has escalated into a full-blown multi-dimensional societal spasm. Certainly, there is no requirement for additional restrictions to be imposed, and the government should leave people to make their own decisions about how they spend this festive season.

Correlation does not imply causation. A very cursory glance at the literature shows all kinds of analysis to this end: you can show that the 11-yearly sunspot cycle correlates very well to the performance of stock market. This does not mean that the sunspot cycle directly impacts the stock market. There is no known mechanism. I repeat: correlation does not imply causation.

In the northern hemisphere, we know from published and peer-reviewed research that at least four coronaviruses were in common circulation prior to 2020. Like SARS-CoV2, they have names: 229E, HKU1, NL63, and OC43. They are associated with a range of respiratory outcomes, including bronchiolitis and pneumonia. They are endemic, that is they are constantly around us and with us, and in northern latitudes, they cause seasonal illness.  We call these ‘colds’, and we often lump them together with the c. 200+ other viruses that cause the ‘common cold’. Our immune systems are resistant to these viruses (including SARS-CoV2), so once they are endemic they rarely cause catastrophic outbreaks. However, some people with co-morbidities do get ill and are particularly susceptible to complications related to ‘colds’. This happens every year, except this year certain actions (e.g. clearing the hospitals in March) have put the vulnerable more at risk.

We also know that occasionally new viruses start circulating, and cause epidemics, and sometimes plagues. But the postulation that the new kid on the block is about to cause Armageddon, is simply not supported by a shred of evidence. We now know that it was endemic in Italy throughout 2019, so was likely present everywhere else in Europe (we just didn’t test for it then). We know that a large proportion of the excess mortality of 2020 was caused by the collateral damage from locking down our economy.

But we are where we are, and this is about the here and now. We have a scared populace that is hunkered down waiting for a deus-ex machina vaccine. I accept that nine months of fear-mongering narrative requires a ‘saviour’ to be deployed to pave a path to normality; the powers that be need to save face.

But personal choice and responsibility are optimal bedfellows for this strategy. It is not acceptable to cause additional social harm and economic damage along the way. We do not require thuggish enforced draconian restrictions, the further wanton destruction of ancient freedoms, nonsensical mask mandates and a continuous stream of banal and innumerate reporting from the media.  We do not need hand-brake turns on lockdowns, Tier changes and push-me-pull-me alterations to already madcap Christmas restrictions.

Let me finish by discussing a peer-reviewed paper published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology back in 2010.  The researchers conducted a large-scale comprehensive screening (using a sensitive PCR test) for all four coronaviruses by analysis of 11,661 diagnostic respiratory samples collected in Edinburgh over 3 years between July 2006 and June 2009.  And what did they find? “Coronaviruses were detected in 0.3[%] to 0.85% of samples in all age groups. Generally, coronaviruses displayed marked winter seasonality between the months of December and April and were not detected in summer months, which is comparable to the pattern seen with influenza viruses… A total of 11[%] to 41% of coronaviruses detected were in samples testing positive for other respiratory viruses”.

Sound familiar? That is because it is. It happens every year in northern latitudes during autumn and winter. The years 2006 to 2009 were not pandemic – or epidemic – years, and neither is 2020 to 2021. Also the PCR test currently in use is not specific, and is known to pick up other coronaviruses. There is no overriding correlation – let alone causation – linking all the restrictions we are suffering to an amelioration of respiratory disease, which happens every year. There is also no sign whatsoever of exponential growth of cases, hospitalisations or mortality, or an excessive burden on health services due to ‘coronavirus’. It is the restrictions – bubbles, mandatory quarantines, distancing, closures – that are putting pressure on services, and as such are a problem of the government’s own making.

Fewer restrictions, more personal responsibility (washing hands with soap is something that should never go out of fashion) and a ratcheting down of the hysteria are what is required to get us out this tank trap that we have dug ourselves.

Plus a welcome Christmas break from the madness: there is nothing to suggest this will in itself cause a January hangover.

Dr Alex Starling (@alexstarling77) is an advisor to and non-executive director of various early-stage technology companies.