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A reckless gamble

- MELANIE PHILLIPS - JULY 7, 2021 - Melanie Phillpis -

The Cardsharps; Caravaggio, 1571-1610

Since Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson announced a bonfire of Covid-19 restrictions planned for July 19 and beyond, political and other voices have been chorusing that the country will now “have to learn to live with Covid”.

What that actually means is that the country will have to learn to die with it. As Johnson said in virtually the next breath:

we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from Covid.

Cases in Britain of Covid-19 have been doubling every nine days and hospitalisations have also been also rising, albeit at a slower rate. The cause is the super-infectious Delta variant which now accounts for the vast majority of new cases. As the Health Secretary Sajid Javid has acknowledged, by July 19 cases could top 50,000 per day and surge beyond 100,000 in August, which would be nearly double the winter peak.

As a result of the vaccination programme, however, few are currently becoming seriously ill and fewer still are dying. However, the trend is still causing serious alarm. Some 33 Covid deaths were registered overnight, more than twice as many as last Wednesday when there were 14. As Britain’s Chief Scientist, Sir Patrick Vallance, said:

The vaccines have weakened the link, not broken it.

SAGE, the government’s scientific advisory group, is anxious. The Mail reported:

But documents released by SAGE alongside the Downing Street press conference last night show that the expert group still has concerns about lifting all curbs when infections and hospital admissions are climbing. The panel warned that should a “variant of concern” arrive that threatened immunity, lockdown restrictions would need to reimposed for much longer. It said that some “baseline measures” may have to stay, with “sustained behavioural change” necessary. Experts said self-isolation when ill would remain “critical” and working from home was a “highly effective” long-term option. And in a grim sign that Britons face a return of some curbs in the near future, SAGE added: “Stronger measures may be desirable for autumn and winter”.

Let’s scroll back. At the very beginning of this crisis, the government was intending to rely on “herd immunity” to get through it. Believing Covid-19 was like the flu, it thought it could tolerate a similar death toll among principally very old people.

When it eventually grasped that Covid-19 couldn’t possibly be compared with the flu, being both potentially more lethal and far more infectious, it realised that under a “herd immunity” policy the health service would collapse, the economy would buckle and the public would be traumatised and appalled.

So it rapidly reversed course, introducing (with varying degrees of lamentable incompetence) measures such as social distancing, testing and lockdowns. The principal error was that, on no fewer than three successive occasions, Johnson was far too slow to introduce restrictions. Each time he was forced to do so by infections galloping out of control; each time, this delay caused more people to become infected, get seriously ill or die than would otherwise have been the case.


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