19 May 2022

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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Is the government responding in the right way to covid-19 issues?
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Is the government responding in the right way to covid-19 issues?

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Are delays in taking restrictive decisions based on a balancing act between saving people and saving business? Which matters more?

Whether you like Dominic Cummings or not or whether you believe him or not, the recent questioning session has given people an opportunity to say whether they identify with part of what he has said.

Of great note this morning was a member of SAGE who basically said that Cummings said the government approach had been a shambles, and she felt that it still was. Listening to her I felt she made a very compelling case. The fact that there has been a lot of contrary opinion and perceived inaction does tend to support that view and of course even government ministers have admitted that they were not always able to move forward in an appropriate way.

But it seems that the real issue which comes up time and again is whether the government did things early enough. Did the first lockdown start early enough? Did testing of patients before returning them to care homes start early enough? More recently and currently rather appropriate was India put on the red list early enough?

Given the evidence we hear from interviewees on the television, it seems that the timing of action has been much more a political issue than based on prudent disease control. We are hearing that the road map may now be derailed because of the Indian variant and certainly it is obvious that government is very worried about this. It is now self-evident that India was added to the red list too late because the variant has arrived and the consequences of that are really far reaching. The trend of new cases in the UK is now rising again consistently, 21% over the past week, and unfortunately deaths are going up as well, 14% increase over the past week.

So why was India not added to the list when the first case of the Indian variant was discovered? Surely that would have been a no-brainer?

And have we learned from this failure? It is quite likely as the disease romps forward that more variants will emerge, possibly quite soon. Let’s say one does. Is not the right action from every perspective to block the country of origin immediately, not in two weeks time or when the moon next turns blue – but now? Isn’t that our best chance?

We hear time and again that no one is safe until everyone is safe. The percentage protection that individuals who have had only one vaccination can expect from the Indian variant is some 33% - only - so this is highly likely to attack people who have had only one vaccination and as we can see even those who have had two are not clear of risk.

And isn’t it all in the manner of delivery? The health secretary said on television this week that of the recent hospitalisations up north, only five patients had had both vaccinations. That sounded okay, didn’t it? Surely what would have been more compelling would have been telling it differently, like “of the recent hospitalisations as many as five had been double vaccinated which shows just how dangerous this disease is and how the vaccination programme is not infallible”.

It’s all in the spin.

Will it really be safe to allow social distancing to be dropped in June? The general public has proved that it is not able to manage itself very well so perhaps government needs to maintain tighter control especially since point 4 of its road map looks like having now been derailed.

Are they taking real notice? Whether what Mr Cummings said is true or not, it really is essential that the government learns from past failings, and there have been failings, where things could be done differently which may enable our normal living standards to be restored, let alone save lives.

The hospitality industry is again saying that it is essential that restrictions are reduced at the end of June or businesses will go bust. Fine but if it is not safe, then there are no medals in opening just to increase the transmission of infection.

As we enter a bank holiday weekend, let’s remember that it is not safe yet, merely a bit safer. So as the weather promises to be excellent, we have a first class opportunity to go for those external barbecues and loads of fresh air.

Adrian Leopard 28-05-21

Photo Lee Myungseong

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