[some reflections on the present crisis]
Have we been Sold a Pup?
The expression arose from the sharp practice of some conmen years ago, who sold someone a puppy instead of a piglet. They thought they were bringing home the bacon only to discover they’d been sold a pup.
More and more people are beginning to think our governments, their advisers and the media have ‘sold us a pup’ instead of telling the truth about Coronavirus. Statistics based on a PCR test which should never have been used as a basis for diagnosis, have produced a highly exaggerated perception of the level of threat. The voices of internationally recognised experts in the fields of virology, immunology and epidemiology, such as John Ioannidis, Sunetra Gupta, Mike Yeadon and Sucharit Bhakdi, are either ignored or dismissed without giving them a fair hearing – or worse still, their professional standing besmirched.
Don’t get me wrong, Coronaviruses are nasty respiratory infections. For most, they’re like a bad bout of ‘flu. Sadly, some older folks die from them. However, the bigger picture is that more than 99% of the people who get these viruses (including the more vulnerable older age group) will recover. Even without a vaccine, our immune systems recognise this infection and deal with it successfully. But that fact is lost amidst incessant media hype and scaremongering.
Millions not in the vulnerable categories, dutifully followed advice to wear masks, accepted successive lockdowns and tolerated highly paid GP’s skulking in their surgeries instead of examining patients face-to-face. Thousands applauded the grotesque transformation of the National Health Service into the National Coronavirus Service. Permanent damage has been done to the economic welfare and social fabric of our country by never-ending closure of businesses and house arrest. In London, just before Christmas, a few brave souls protested this assault on our liberty, only to be crushed by a posse of thuggish police, brandishing batons, bristling with helmets, shields and vastly increased powers of arrest.
As a Christian, I am required to ‘be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.’ (Rom. 13:1) I am therefore not at liberty to engage in violent civil disobedience, nor would I wish to. But—when the laws of God are contradicted by the laws of men—‘We must obey God rather than men.’ (Acts 5:29)
To take some examples.
‘Honour your father and your mother that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’ (Eph. 6:2; Deut. 5:16)
Until her recent hospitalisation due to age related problems, my 93-year-old mother relied heavily for emotional and practical support, on the regular visits of her family. She was extremely deaf, so phone calls were a non-starter. I live in the East of Scotland. Travel restrictions during ‘lockdown’ forbade me to travel across country to Ayrshire in the West, where Mum lived. I chose to visit her in spite of the restrictions. I took the view that my mother’s quality of life was more important than the small risk of transmitting – or indeed, catching the virus –when neither I, my wife or my mother, had any symptoms.
Government scientists said ‘Don’t hug your Granny’ – but immunologists have established that the amount of virus coughed from the mouth of a person with no symptoms, even if they are carrying the virus, is a thousand times less infectious than any viral material present in their throat. The viral load is negligible. So, I continued to hug and give my mother a kiss whenever I visited.
Mum had three visits a day from carers who assisted with meals and personal care, plus two visits a week from a podiatrist to dress a chronic, extremely painful necrotic wound on her foot. Each of these professionals were entering multiple households every day, while I and my wife, being retired, were for the most part living ‘in splendid isolation’.
‘If one of you says to them,
“Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?’
I would not have been honouring my aged mother if I had ignored her need for emotional comfort and practical support.
At the end of October 2020, Mum’s condition worsened. I took her to her GP who referred her for an immediate scan at A&E. I drove her to the A&E department at Crosshouse Hospital, East Ayrshire, wheeled her through doors festooned with unfriendly notices one of which read:
I sat in the waiting area beside Mum in her wheelchair and handed her over when her name was called. Some time later a doctor emerged from A&E to inform me that they were going to admit Mum to the ‘Combined Assessment Unit’. I asked to see her so that I could reassure her and make sure she knew what was happening before I left her. I was refused entry to A&E to do this. I asked if they could bring her to the door of A&E so that I could at least wave goodbye. They wouldn’t do that either. Trembling with emotion, I went across to the Combined Assessment Unit and asked how long my mother would be kept in A&E before being transferred to the unit. A nurse told me another patient had recently waited 17 hours in A&E before a bed became available. I went home in a distressed frame of mind, feeling that I had abandoned Mum to lie on a plastic plinth for hours, all contact with me abruptly cut off without explanation.
In the days that followed, my sister, brothers and I, had no contact with Mum. We had to rely on daily phone calls to the assessment unit, then to another hospital ward when she was transferred there.
We wrote to local MSPs and also to Ayrshire and Arran Health Board officials, asking for a relaxation of these conditions so that at least one of us could get in to see Mum – to no avail. We were refused permission. She was then transferred to a rehabilitation ward in another hospital, (Ayrshire Central Hospital, Irvine), where we were granted pre-arranged, 15-minute Zoom calls. We were also granted (grudgingly by certain hospital staff) the ‘privilege’ of visiting her window since her room was on the ground floor, facing the access route to the hospital entrance.
The excellent nurse tasked with facilitating Zoom calls (she made this intolerable situation almost bearable for us), didn’t work weekends, so there were no weekend Zoom calls. She was on holiday over Christmas and New Year, so Zoom calls were spasmodic due to staffing constraints. Mum was growing steadily weaker. More than ever, she needed the comforting physical presence of her family. Whenever she saw us at the window, she beckoned us to come in and couldn’t understand why we had to stay outside.
My sister and brothers faithfully visited, waving at Mum through her window and holding up written whiteboard messages for her to read. I live about two hours’ drive from Irvine, so my visits were fewer. Just after Christmas however, following renewed fears about a new Coronavirus strain, hospital policy appeared to change; we were actively discouraged from coming to the window—an A4 notice on the inside of the window commanded us to stay 2 metres away if we came at all. When staff saw us outside, they opened the window and told us to stay away. On Monday 4th January 2021 my sister visited Mum’s window several times. On each occasion, the curtains were closed. When she phoned to ask why, she was told that Mum may have been getting personal care. The next day she arrived, only to discover an empty room. No bed, nothing. Her mind racing, she phoned the ward and was told Mum had been moved to another room. When she located the room, and Mum eventually woke up and saw her, she stared blankly, not recognising her. A further deterioration in her condition.
The hospital held all the cards. We felt an increasing sense of dismay. The odds were firmly stacked against us. We wondered how many other families were enduring the same nightmare.
Of course, we understood the need to protect patients. Ward staff told us there were Covid-positive patients in Mum’s ward, so we had to be content with the few crumbs of comfort the authorities allowed us, in order to provide what limited support we could to Mum. But Zoom calls and window visits at a two-metre distance were far from ideal for a ninety-three-year-old lady lying in bed with acute hearing loss and fragile mental acuity. At the very moment she most needed us, the hospital tightened even the restricted concessions they had allowed us.
Nurses, auxiliaries, cleaners, doctors and other health workers had free access to Mum’s room in the course of their work. Would the risk to Mum’s health have been exponentially increased by allowing a designated, masked and gowned family member into her room to hold her hand for a short visit every other day?
On 4th January 2021, we learned about Nicola Sturgeon’s latest measures: another extended, Scotland-wide, total lockdown for at least the next month, perhaps longer. In the diary notes which I kept of Mum’s incarceration I wrote: ‘Make no mistake; if our mother dies without the comfort of her family beside her, we will place the blame firmly at the door of Ms Sturgeon and Jason Leitch … and their equally guilty confederates in London. Our hearts cry out to God, for ‘vain is the help of man’.’
On Monday 11th January, Mum was not responding during our brief Zoom calI. The nurse who helped Mum with Zoom, couldn’t hide the concern in her voice. About an hour later my phone rang. It was Mum’s consultant. She said: ‘I think your Mum is going to die soon.’ All of a sudden the family were granted access to sit with her and watch her die. My brother and sister got to the hospital before me. The three of us took turns to sit with Mum and hold her hand. We travelled back and forth between Mum’s house and the hospital to snatch a few hours’ sleep each over the next two days. There were times when Mum was trying to speak but could only move her lips. At least she knew we were there. One of our brothers drove down from Aberdeen on the Wednesday. Mum rallied a bit while he was there. She smiled and responded to his presence. About an hour after he left, she took a turn for the worse and passed into the presence of the Lord Jesus at 9.30pm on Wednesday 13th January 2021.
While we know the day is coming when we will see her again, this does not mitigate the seriousness of the injustice done by the Scottish authorities to our dear mother. For two and a half months, they denied her the physical contact with her family that she so desperately needed as she gradually grew weaker. We feel that the Scottish government and their advisers stole that time from Mum and from us because of their misguided obsession with ‘lockdown’. At the very least, one of us, dressed appropriately in PPE, could have been allowed into Mum’s room to provide the succour she was so cruelly denied.
As a family we think changes should be made to the rules governing access for relatives of people in hospital, to ensure that this iniquity does not continue to happen. We are only one family among many. Actions speak louder than words. Our political leaders may not be called to account in this life but the day is coming when they will answer to God.
‘teach them to your children and your grandchildren’ (Deut. 4:9)
Our son and daughter live in England. Both married with children. The last time we all got together, was for a precious two or three hours one day in July, six months ago, when we arranged to meet them at an outdoor location for a family walk and picnic. Prior to ‘lockdown’ restrictions, we would visit them regularly, staying with each family a few days at a time. Our children and grandchildren sorely miss our visits and so do we.
The Bible requires us to pass on our knowledge of God and His good laws to future generations. Does any government have the right to indefinitely interrupt normal family relationships, on the pretext of preventing transmission of a virus which for the vast majority, is clearly no worse than a bad seasonal flu? They certainly don’t have the right to obstruct the transmission of Biblical family values.
‘if any man will not work, neither let him eat’ (1 Thess. 3:9)
Our youngest son still lives at home. He works in a local restaurant. He is now on his second enforced furlough and we are increasingly concerned about the viability of his employer’s business. He’s been sitting around the house doing nothing for more than a month and a half now. We fear for his mental health as well as his livelihood. Christian teaching is clear: if we’re not prepared to earn our bread by an honest day’s work, we have no right to expect God, or the government, to feed us.
‘if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household,
he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’
(1 Tim. 5:8)
'Do this in remembrance of me.' (Luke 22:19)
Above all as a Christian, I am called to remember the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at a collective, physical gathering of my local church on resurrection morning, the first day of each week. (Luke 24:1,2; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2) The early disciples were expected to faithfully continue ‘in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers.’ (Acts 2:41,42; 1 Cor. 10:16) This includes SINGING—for on the night of the betrayal, after our Saviour introduced the new covenant remembrance of Himself in broken bread and poured out wine, they sang a hymn. (Mat. 26:30)
Scottish political leaders have insisted that Churches remain closed—indefinitely it would seem, for there has been no clear indication to date, of an end to these restrictions. While governments, for a limited amount of time, may legitimately request the cancelling of such gatherings for reasons of extreme danger or crisis, they most certainly do not have the right to perpetually forbid the collective worship of God. If the risk posed by Coronavirus or any other malign entity is no more threatening than the common challenges we face in an imperfect world—and statistics clearly show that it isn’t—am I, or any of my fellow Christians, at liberty to deny God the glory due to His Holy name?
We may have been ‘sold a pup’. That doesn’t mean we should short-change God, our parents or our families.
Jo Johnson, 17 February 2021