PIERS MORGAN: I understand the lockdown protests – but they're wrong

I can understand why Americans are protesting against the lockdown of their liberty – but they’re wrong, the only tyrannical enemy we need to worry about right now is coronavirus

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On January 23, a family of four from Wuhan in China, where the COVID-19 pandemic began, flew down to Guangzhou near Hong Kong and the next day, had lunch in a local restaurant.

Two other families sat at neighboring tables in the restaurant.

Later that day, one of the Wuhan family experienced a cough and fever and went to hospital.

Within a week, nine other people (including the other members of the Wuhan family) from those three tables became sick with the coronavirus despite not engaging at all with the other groups.

The United States has more coronavirus deaths than anywhere in the world, yet despite this, thousands of protestors have begun marching out all over the country in fury at the lockdown measures, from North Carolina and Missouri to Alabama and Oregon

Hundreds of protestors gathered in North Carolina on Tuesday to protest against the lockdown measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus

On Sunday, healthcare workers stood in the streets in counter-protest to hundreds of people who gathered in their cars at the State Capitol in Denver

Experts who investigated the incident have now concluded that the virus was transmitted in less than an hour via the restaurant’s air conditioning system.

(None of the restaurant’s eight staff became infected, and nor did 73 other diners.)

But what this investigation shows is just how virulent COVID-19 is, and how easy it is to catch it in mass gatherings.

That is why most of the world’s top scientists and doctors around the world have advised draconian lockdown measures to try to combat the virus.

And that is why, so far, the countries that moved fastest to lock down appear to be doing better than those who hesitated.

The United States, which despite all President Trump’s claims to the contrary was shamefully slow to respond to the threat, has had more coronavirus deaths than anywhere else in the world, and the rate of American infections and deaths continues to soar to horrific heights.

Yesterday, it was revealed the US now has 827,093 confirmed cases and more than 45,000 deaths.

Yet despite this, thousands of protestors have begun marching out all over the country in fury at the lockdown measures, from North Carolina and Missouri to Alabama and Oregon.

They’re blocking streets, honking horns, and angrily demanding their right to ‘freedom’.

Protestors have been blocking streets, honking horns, and angrily demanding their right to ‘freedom’

Many protestors are largely, though not exclusively, conservative and pro-Trump as can be seen from their banners, T-shirts and rhetoric

Many are armed with guns, the preferred instrument of protecting liberty for many Americans.

And they are largely, though not exclusively, conservative and pro-Trump as can be seen from their banners, T-shirts and rhetoric.

In one particularly unedifying incident outside the state capitol in Austin, Texas, conspiracy theory whackjob Alex Jones fuelled chants of ‘You can’t close America!’, Let us work!’ and even ‘Fire Fauci’ in reference to Dr Fauci, America’s most brilliant and impressive medical expert.

The protestors have been actively encouraged by President Trump who in a tweet storm several days ago blasted ‘LIBERATE MINNESOTA!’, ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN!’ and ‘LIBERATE VIRGINIA!’ – all states, and this was not a coincidence, run by Democrat governors.

By doing this, Trump fermented the idea that coronavirus lockdowns are the enemy of liberty, even as his own experts were advising people to stay at home and obey them. And even as his own government advice remains that no state should reopen until they see 14 days of declining infections.

It would be easy to dismiss all the protestors as a bunch of Neanderthal idiots, but I will resist that temptation because it wouldn’t be accurate or fair.

Some definitely are, judging by their inflammatory nonsensical ramblings when they’ve been interviewed.

But others I’ve seen speaking out have seemed genuinely fearful and concerned for what the lockdowns mean for the crashing US economy, for jobs, and for public health from the inevitable poverty and homelessness that will escalate the longer this crisis goes on.

And there is a perfectly legitimate, indeed essential debate to be had about the merits of how strict a lockdown should be and how long it should last.

One of the best things about America and its open democratic society is that this debate is being had publicly and loudly, in a way that shames countries like my own, Britain, where the Government is behaving during this crisis like a soviet style regime intent on suppressing the truth.

However, when I see protestors squaring up angrily to health workers, as has begun happening more frequently in recent days, my heart sinks at the abysmal lack of respect for people on the frontline of this coronavirus war, who know they will soon be treating many of those protesting, and for the lack of basic common sense being applied by those demanding their ‘liberty’.

My question for the protestors is this: what kind of ‘freedom’ do you think ignoring lockdowns will bring?

More than 45,000 people have died from coronavirus in the United States as of Tuesday

More than 827,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the United States as of Tuesday

I imagine it is the kind that would allow you, like the family from Wuhan, to go to a nice restaurant with your family today and have a meal?

I’d love to do that too, but I understand that to do so would be to put my life at risk, and the lives of others.

Why don’t the protestors understand this? I suspect the main reason is that they don’t believe or trust the ‘experts’ telling them not to.

So, they see lockdowns as some kind of tyrannical threat being driven by politically motivated opponents who want to control their lives, a belief that has been disgracefully fuelled by their President.

I once had a very friendly conversation with a Texan oil tycoon about guns, at a time when I was engaged in a series of very unfriendly gun-related conversations on air at CNN following the Sandy Hook massacre.

He explained to me that the reason so many Americans believe so passionately in the right to bear arms is that they genuinely fear the government may turn tyrannical on them and they need to be armed to defend their liberty for when that time comes.

I didn’t agree with that argument – not least because the US government has 5000 nuclear warheads at its disposal – but I understood it.

I think this mindset explains why so many Americans are taking to the streets to protest against being locked down.

They see it as an assault on their liberty, which is the very cornerstone of every American’s constitutional rights.

But it’s not.

In fact, it’s the opposite: the lockdowns are designed to protect life and preserve liberty.

Until there is a successful vaccine for COVID-19, or enough mass testing to work out who has had it, and whether they have developed an immunity, the lockdowns are going to be an absolutely vital tool in fighting the virus.

Yet impatient leaders like Georgia governor Brian Kemp have announced plans to imminently reopen their state’s economy, including hair salons, fitness centres, movie theaters and restaurants, at a time when Georgia – which has some of the highest asthma rates in the US – is seeing rising death and infection numbers.

This is premature, reckless and will cost lives.

Just as it is particularly stupid and dangerous for the protestors to ignore social distancing rules as they protest, as we see so many doing.

This will also cost lives.

John McDaniel, from Ohio, was so enraged by Governor Mike DeWine’s lockdown measures he posted on Facebook in March that ‘this madness has to stop’. He died from COVID-19 on April 15

And if they don’t believe me, I urge them all to consider the story of a man named John McDaniel, 60, from Marion County in Ohio.

On March 15, he was so enraged by Governor Mike DeWine’s lockdown measures that he posted the following on Facebook: ‘If what I’m hearing is true, that DeWine has ordered the bars and restaurants to be closed, I say bullsh*t! He doesn’t have the authority. If you are paranoid about getting sick just don’t go out. It shouldn’t keep those of us from living our lives. This madness has to stop.’

Two days earlier, McDaniel, married with two children and boss of an industrial equipment supply company, suggested the dangers posed by the coronavirus had been massively exaggerated.

‘Does anybody have the guts to say this COVID-19 is a political ploy? Asking for a friend. Prove me wrong.’

John McDaniel died from COVID-19 on April 15. 

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