Public scrutiny of lockdown exit strategy

The Government must publish its “exit strategy” for easing the “lock down” for public scrutiny to avoid repeating past mistakes and ensure that when the time comes it is ready and it does not overlook anything or anyone.

For example as a former Director of Social Services and Non-Executive Director of an NHS Trust it is difficult to understand why older people are being left to die of coronavirus in Care Homes and not being admitted to hospital? People in Care Homes are just as in need of, and entitled to, hospital care as anyone else.

It is bad enough that they are not being included in the daily statistics, as though they don’t count, but of more concern if they are being denied the care that might save their lives. Care Homes do not have ventilators or intensive care units.

The Government’s strategy is to “shield” the most vulnerable and yet home carers are going from house to house without PPE (masks, goggles, gloves and gowns) risking spreading the virus or catching it themselves.

Despite having had at least three months’ notice, and advice from the World Health Organisation, the Government was slow in building up its capacity for testing, failed to close its borders and late in introducing “social distancing”. People are still coming into the Country via our major airports without having their temperatures taken at passport control and if need be quarantined.

South Korea has shown just what could have been achieved by the early closure of our borders, testing, tracing and isolating contacts, and introducing early “lock down”. 

That not enough foresight was applied in January to get enough PPE for the NHS, care homes, home carers, and supermarket staff, not to mention availability of masks for the public, when people in China were seen wearing them on every television newscast is incomprehensible.

The UK Government has bought 3.5million serology tests although there is still no proof that one cannot get the virus a second time. The Government has further implied that this is to allow those who have built up immunity to return to work: but not said which 3.5million of the 68million people in the UK are to be tested, 

Until the Government publishes its “exit strategy”, for easing the “lockdown”, it is not clear as to how this step fits into the wider picture and conjures up recollections of the catastrophic “herd immunity” concept, which could have cost 250,000 lives.

What is to happen to those who have not had coronavirus or built up immunity, as a vaccine is a long way off, particularly the many thousands of the most vulnerable people who will still be being “shielded” in their own homes at this time. Are they to remain confined to their homes until they get it and either recover or die? 

This is why the Government’s exit strategy must be subject of public scrutiny.

* Chris Perry is a former Director of Social Services, South Glamorgan County Council, former Non-Executive Director of Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust, and former Director of Age Concern Hampshire.

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  • Absolutely agree. We need to reject the idea that the present chaos is somehow based on science. Getting a group of people who are scientists into a room to make recommendations is not science. Examining and publishing the evidence, and finding evidence where it is lacking would be a step towards a scientific approach. As would a recognition that it is essential to face the fact that we never know everything, and estimating uncertainty is part of scientific method.
    As far as the approach involving “herd immunity” is concerned, the evidence is that this is still the dominant approach. The idea is that people with symptoms stay at home. If they get better they do not need any intervention. If they get worse they will be admitted to hospital. But by then they might be seriously ill. This might be a worse result for those people, but the NHS would not be overrun.
    It is clear that the reality is that because of very serious underfunding the NHS has collapsed. People with other illnesses are not getting the routine examinations and treatment they need. This in spite of the fact that the NHS has always stressed the importance of early intervention. This is because of the lack of capacity, and although there has been work on a plan for this type of epidemic, it has not been funded.
    It is urgent that the truth is spread. This way we will save lives.

  • Tom Harney,
    Absolutely agree.

  • A&E’s are virtually empty. People are simply not going to hospitals. The problem is that the message to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives is shaming people into not wanting to be a burden and instilling the fear that hospitals are one of the places you are most likely to become infected. The lockdown policy essentially concentrates on one health problem at the expense of lots of others. This is why some of us argue that it is not a choice between saving lives and saving the economy. Heart attacks, thrombosis and cancers are killers. Inactivity, isolation and poverty are also serious health risks. The longer the lockdown goes on the worse the situation gets. The worse the situation gets the more the temptation to continue them grows. At the moment our elected representatives have a compliant and spooked population. But unemployment, housing problems, teeth falling out, weight gain and bad home haircuts is neither a recipe for stable politics or long term health benefit to anyone.
    The really scary thing is not ending the lockdown to early, it’s leaving it to late.

    As for herd immunity? The vast majority of people experiences this infection as a mild illness which suggest immune systems already are coping. The main purpose of a vaccine would be to offer a degree of protection to the vulnerable and to make travel outside the country more viable. However,hanging around for months or even years waiting for one is not a realistic option.

  • A&E’s are virtually empty.
    This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
    From the media interviews it seems that it is dawning on people that A&E isn’t where you go if all you need is a dressing changed, stitches removed etc..

    The longer the lockdown goes on the worse the situation gets.
    But also the longer it goes on and becomes normal, the more people will come to terms with the new reality and staet exploring this new life. Something we are already beginning to see as the media begin to highlight success stories of the sorts of things people are doing to be social and have a purpose in life. Ie. putting it economic terms, the lockdown is creating new market forces. This isn’t a bad thing.

  • Roland
    I don’t think so. It’s not a new life to explore. Anyway, I’m not getting into it. It’s boring. Enjoy your house arrest.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Apr '20 - 10:14am

    PMQ today will be taken by Raab. Gross statistics on the number of people brought to the UK from Spain, etc will not be sufficient. One woman interned in Iran against her will adds a human rights issue to the health issue. Boris should answer this himself. Talking to Donald Trump is not enough.

  • Peter Hirst 22nd Apr '20 - 3:04pm

    It’s a complicated situation. We can’t rely on science if there is no reliable mass testing for immunity. Do we all assume we’re at risk unless we’ve been diagnosed with a +ve test? More resources must be put into developing accurate serology so we know whether we’re at risk or immune. Meanwhile those self isolating should be a priority for testing so they can stop if no longer at risk.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Apr '20 - 3:52pm

    Chris Perry | Tue 21st April 2020 – 8:45 am
    Sir Ed Davey was the only Lib Dem MP called at PMQ.
    The Leader of the House (Rees-Mogg) is pledged to try to correct technical problems. The picture quality was poor, perhaps Sir Ed should take it up.
    His question was about a death of a medic in a hospital in his constituency.
    Dominic Raab replied that his children had been born there and he had been treated there. Both had high praise for the deceased medic.
    Speaking last, Jeremy Corbyn (Labour, Islington) repeated what he had said as Labour leader, praising cleaners as key workers, etc.

  • Until now the results from herd immunity studies globally are still very mixed, so right now it must be off the table until there are clear supporting evidence. Return to normal must be very careful and slow, and only after new cases have dropped for 14 straight days (I am citing US CDC guideline). The figures that we must look at include hospitalization, CFR and R0 (Hint: if every country manages to drive down R0 below 1, the virus will simply die out).

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