The Sunday Telegraph

Government didn’t consider how scare tactics would affect most vulnerable

- By Isabel Oakeshott

‘Mark knew we were going into another lockdown. The fear was the thing that affected him most’

While Matt Hancock breezily discussed how to “frighten the pants off everyone” with a new strain, a boy called Mark was listening in deepening despair to the drumbeat towards another national lockdown grow louder.

It was December 2020, and the 15-year-old’s life had been turned upside down by the pandemic. A few months earlier, his mother Anna Marie had decided they should move house because during the first lockdown they couldn’t even go to the local park. She describes how over-zealous council officials had shut the playground, leaving her struggling to cope with Mark’s little brother, a hyperactiv­e five-year-old. On her impoverish­ed estate in Bootle, Merseyside, they were no longer even emptying the bins.

Now the family was in a better place in the North East, but Anna Marie had been unable to get Mark into a new school. With “home schooling” now an easy default, education authoritie­s shrugged that he could just study for his GCSEs online.

Unable to play football, during the first lockdown he started putting on weight. When other children returned to school that autumn, he became increasing­ly isolated – and frightened.

As Hancock and his acolytes plotted to use a new strain of coronaviru­s to terrify the population, that fear descended into paranoia. Mark became so scared of the virus that he would not even open his bedroom window.

“His nails were bitten to the bone.

He was literally frightened of the air. He wore a mask everywhere,” his mother says.

In London, Hancock’s spin doctors were feverishly WhatsAppin­g each other about how best to “roll the pitch” for more Covid restrictio­ns. In the North East, Anna Marie was trying to stop Mark listening to more frightenin­g news bulletins. “We tried to keep the TV off but we were being bombarded,” she says of the prophecies of doom relentless­ly pumped out by an acquiescin­g media. “Mark knew we were going into another lockdown. The fear was the thing that affected him most. He was disconnect­ed, distant. I didn’t know what to do.”

Anna Marie, a single mother used to a hard life, did what so many others in desperate circumstan­ces did at that time – she kept going.

Sadly Mark could not. Almost exactly a year later, when most of the population had been vaccinated against Covid but the omicron variant prompted yet another fear campaign, he told his mother he was popping out to the shops – and never returned.

His body was found by dog walkers three days later, hanging from a tree. Though he had never talked of taking his own life, his family had been prepared for the worst, after discoverin­g he’d searched the internet for how to tie a noose.

Those responsibl­e for “Project Fear” had no idea about the lives of people

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