BREAKING NEWS
This content is not available in your region

Coronavirus: Nigel Farage cites Sweden as he relaunches Brexit Party to oppose COVID-19 lockdowns

Access to the comments Comments
Nigel Farage said lockdowns had been an 'unspeakable cruelty' on populations fighting coronavirus
Nigel Farage said lockdowns had been an 'unspeakable cruelty' on populations fighting coronavirus   -   Copyright  Ross D. Franklin/AP
Text size Aa Aa

Eurosceptic Nigel Farage has revealed plans to relaunch his Brexit Party with a twist: this time to fight the British government's coronavirus response.

Revealing the plan after a second lockdown was announced this weekend for England, the party leader said the current strategy against COVID-19 had been a "woeful" one as the national conversation grew "even more toxic than that over Brexit".

He added that respective lockdowns had been an "unspeakable cruelty" toward populations, and directed his support instead to the Great Barrington Declaration - an argument for a "focused protection" approach to those most at-risk to the virus.

"It is effectively being practised to a large degree in Sweden with considerable success," Farage wrote in The Telegraph on Sunday, while announcing his decision to ditch the Brexit Party name for Reform UK.

"The rest of the population should, with good hygiene measures and a dose of common sense, get on with life. This way we build immunity in the population.

"The young act as warriors, creating a shield of protection. Multi-generational households will, of course, need to implement stricter measures."

This declaration, however, which was authored by three professors from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford has been widely criticised both for its lack of scientific evidence and a lack of how to implement such a strategy.

"This is wishful thinking," said Dr Rupert Beale from the cell biology of infection laboratory at Francis Crick Institute. "It is not possible to fully identify vulnerable individuals, and it is not possible to fully isolate them.

"Furthermore, we know that immunity to coronaviruses wanes over time, and re-infection is possible – so lasting protection of vulnerable individuals by establishing ‘herd immunity’ is very unlikely to be achieved in the absence of a vaccine.

"Individual scientists may reasonably disagree about the relative merits of various interventions, but they must be honest about the feasibility of what they propose. This declaration is therefore not a helpful contribution to the debate."

Fabio Sasso/LaPresse
Protests are ongoing across Italy against recently tightened measuresFabio Sasso/LaPresse

Farage's move to try and spearhead a growing anti-lockdown sentiment in the UK comes in addition to similar dissent elsewhere in Europe as the continent moves deep into its second wave.

Italy, which has closed cinemas and gyms, and has placed extra restrictions on bars and restaurants has seen days of violent protesting across its biggest cities, where, in one location, police have used water cannon to disperse crowds of people.

In Florence on Friday, petrol bombs, bottles and rocks were the modes of anger for protesters, who also reportedly overturned bins and wrecked CCTV.

Florence mayor Dario Nardella later wrote on Facebook of a "surreal, terrible and painful night" as he scolded those who had chosen to "scar" the city.

"This is not how you protest your grievances; this is not how you voice your suffering," he said.

The introduction of a six-month state of emergency in Spain has also sparked protests across the country, while hundreds of French citizens said "non" this weekend to Emmanuel Macron's imposing of another nationwide lockdown.

Similar protests, too, have been reported in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belgium, Ireland - and now England, which will lock down again on Thursday.

The World Health Organization said in October that some European countries had reporting its citizens were suffering from "COVID fatigue" after months of restrictions. Anecdotal evidence suggests Swedes, who have lived under less strict measures, have not grown as weary as some of their fellow Europeans.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told England on Saturday that the second lockdown would be to prevent a "medical and moral disaster" for the country's national health service (NHS) amid rapidly growing case numbers of COVID-19.

He said: "Doctors and nurses would be forced to choose which patients to treat, who would get oxygen and who wouldn't; who would live and who would die."

Alberto Pezzali/AP
Boris Johnson announced a new lockdown for England to begin this ThursdayAlberto Pezzali/AP

The announcement followed several weeks of Johnson's own resistance against scientific advice to shut down the country, all the while insisting it would be "disastrous" for the economy.

But with tens of thousands of cases per day and a mounting death toll, the PM suggested he had little other choices in his strategy as he stressed he was "truly, truly sorry" for the effect to come for business.

Nigel Farage announced the change to Reform UK in a newspaper column

According to Farage, "this is no way to tackle a disease that may be around for a long time, perhaps forever" - again touting the Great Barrington Declaration.

This came despite some of the declaration's expert signatures later being outed as fake (including one being that of a deceased serial killer).

Such a declaration, he argues, is a "credible alternative," adding that his support is also evidence of a leader with "the courage to lead from the front and persuade others to follow".

"We are showing the courage needed to take on consensus thinking and vested interests on COVID," he said.

"But there are so many areas of public life that can be improved to benefit ordinary people. That is why we will campaign for Reform."