Wishful thinking is a powerful thing. When I read about a new disease-modelling study from the University of Oxford I desperately wanted to believe. It is the most prominent exploration of the tip-of-the-iceberg hypothesis, which suggests that most coronavirus infections are so mild as to have passed unrecorded by the authorities and perhaps even un­noticed by the people infected.

If true, many of us — perhaps most of us in Europe — have already had the virus and probably developed some degree of immunity. If true, the lockdowns have served a valuable purpose in easing an overwhelming strain on intensive care units, but they will soon become unnecessary. If true. But is it true?

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