Tag Archives: covid

Covid: two years on the Government has abandoned any form of public health strategy

In March 2020, just before the first lockdown, I penned a piece for Lib Dem Voice on the Government being behind the curve in implementing Covid restrictions. Last year in March 2021, I wrote a follow-up article saying we weren’t out of the woods. Now another year on, where are we?

The Office for National Statistics estimated in the week ending 12 March that around 3.3 million people in the UK had COVID-19. Of course, sadly, this increase in cases is now leading to increased hospitalisations and deaths. According to official statistics, There were 13,844 people admitted to hospital with Covid in the week to 19 March and there were 877 deaths in the 7 days to 23 March (up 133 on the previous week).

The fact that Covid patients are now filling up more beds in hospital again means that non-urgent treatment and operations are more likely to be cancelled – compounded by the fact that NHS hospitals are facing critical under-staffing, both because of existing staff shortages and because more NHS staff are now themselves off sick with Covid.

Many health experts are deeply concerned about all this. Where is the plan? Almost all restrictions have now been lifted, certainly in England, and people can no longer protect themselves in public spaces such as on trains and in shops as mask wearing has fallen off sharply. For people who are clinically vulnerable – maybe because they have an immunological disorder or because they on medication that lowers their immunity – this is quite a frightening prospect. The fact that the Government is now introducing fourth Covid jabs for people aged over 75 or those who are clinically vulnerable is very welcome, but otherwise letting Covid rip through the population seems irresponsible, especially as there is evidence that more people are becoming reinfected with the newer Omicron variant. The herd immunity argument never worked.

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Welcome to my day: 21 February 2022 – “I’m still standing…”

It’s been a bit blowy in deepest mid-Suffolk, and I hope that our readers have come out of the trio of storms unscathed. Dudley, Eunice and Franklin have brought chaos to a country undergoing a fair bit of chaos already.

On this day in 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published “The Communist Manifesto”, probably the most influential political manifesto ever written. Admittedly, those who claimed to be implementing it weren’t terribly keen on winning hearts and minds through simple persuasion and an intensive leafleting campaign, but its impact still hangs heavy, as the situation in Ukraine reminds us. Richard Trevithick ran his locomotive for the first time at the Penydarren Ironworks, Merthyr Tydfil in 1804, and probably didn’t have to worry about trees on the line. And, though it seems hard to credit, it’s ten years to the day since Emlyn Hooson died. Here’s what Eric Avebury had to say about him.

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Covid and authoritarianism: were we wrong-footed over Covid passports?

I’m hearing genuine concern about the increasing authoritarianism of the Johnson government and more complicated concerns about civil liberties and Covid regulations — particularly around the idea of Covid passports. But these are profoundly different. Joining them together is a bad idea, and plays into the government’s hands.

Creeping authoritarianism

The Tories thought nothing of illegally proroguing parliament. They responded to losing in the Supreme Court with a threat to stop “leftie lawyers” challenging the government. Proposals for compulsory voter identification and redrawing constituency boundaries are likely to help them at the next election, and they are alarmingly-happy to use “Henry VIII powers” to sideline parliament in facing the legislative consequences of Brexit. And it’s probably best not to mention the recent Conservative Party conference.

These are problems, and we should be concerned. But they are not about Covid.

A friend who travels frequently between the UK and Belgium makes a sharp contrast. In Belgium the messaging around Covid has been “this is what the doctors advise…” In the UK it’s been “obey the government and you will be fine” (even when the government ignores the advice of SAGE). Praise of obedience sounds horribly authoritarian.

But obeying the government isn’t about Covid.

People accept authoritarianism if it makes them feel safer. A government that stirs up people’s anxieties, ducks responsibility and presents itself as the answer has a way to hang on to power.

The medical piece

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LibLInk: Christine Jardine on the perfect storm that shows up our bad Governments

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine looks at the “perfect storm” of food and fuel shortages, health service crisis, Covid and high energy prices we are facing at the moment. She argues that the show how bad both UK and Scottish Governments are – and we shouldn’t let them away with blaming Covid and Brexit for our current travails. They were failing long before then:

It must be tempting for those responsible for the well-being of the NHS to blame its current predicament on all the other elements of the storm. That somehow the crisis which has necessitated calling in the Armed Forces to support our ambulance service is purely the result of the circumstances we find ourselves in. That they can look to the example of our energy industry which is defending itself with evidence of an unusual lack of wind and solar resources and a fire on an interconnector.

But that would be to ignore the reality which we have all experienced in different ways over recent, pre-pandemic years. The damage done by the increasing centralisation of public services and decision-making in Scotland.

On top of everything else, the FLu jag programme has been a nightmare this year.

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Global Vaccine Equity

Vaccines Without Borders
Vaccines are the most effective way out of the pandemic. However, there won’t be enough supply to vaccinate the world’s population until 2023 or 2024. That’s why I joined NOW! (@NOW4humanity) to pressure vaccine manufacturers such as Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer to allow other companies to develop its COVID-19 vaccine and have #VaccinesWithoutBorders.

But this is not enough. All companies must follow suit.

Oxford, Valneva, Novavax and CureVac, are now working with the Government to produce the vaccines in the UK. Johnson & Johnson have applied to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use listing to deliver doses to poor and middle-income countries. A Sussex-based company has begun developing a coronavirus vaccine in pill form, and trials have already started.

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Who gets the vaccine next?

I’m losing track of calls for vaccine priority for one group or another. Teachers, police, this morning port workers – one might logically add the whole food supply chain of 4 or 5 million people. Unpaid carers have been raised (currently in group 6 of phase 1 ahead of 60-64 year olds in group 7).

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Lockdown weak, NHS in danger, where next?

With coronavirus case numbers still growing strongly (though perhaps slowing a little according to symptom tracking) and the NHS struggling to cope with the numbers of people needing hospitalisation already, driven by the much lower case numbers of 2 or 3 weeks ago, this is clearly the most dangerous time of the whole pandemic for any of us to contract the virus; there is every chance, wherever we live, that the NHS may not be able to give us the treatment we might need.

Acceleration of the vaccine programme is of course essential and the delay to second doses to give more people the protection of a first dose is a proportionate response to a crisis of this magnitude. But it will take until mid February to vaccinate (first dose) the most vulnerable 15 million people, accounting for 88% of deaths. So we should expect a big drop in pressure on the NHS by mid March. But that is 7 weeks away. For now, growth in the virus is adding pressure faster than vaccination can relieve it.

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Lord Roger Roberts writes…The demand is for statesmen rather than politicians…..

“We must all hang together, else we shall all hang separately” the words of Benjamin Franklyn on signing the declaration of Independence are as relevant today as they were back in 1776

When a future generation weighs the historical importance of the early twenty first century they might remember another quote – that the politician looks to the next election whilst the statesman looks to the next generation. We’re very short of statesmen but have an abundance of politicians!

Here in the UK, whatever the cost it’s 2024 and the election planned for that year that counts. Our government chose to continue with the withdrawal from the European Union even though circumstances in 2020 were vastly different from those of the referendum. The tiny majority that voted for us to leave had neither a virus nor probable economic depression to contend with and there were suspicions of a misleading leave campaign. Where did that £350 million a day for the NHS disappear to? And where are the crowds from Turkey hiding?

The messages of the politicians have led us into deep trouble and who knows where the end will finally be? People don’t trust hardly a word spoken by politicians and any promises Mr Johnson makes are treated with disbelief’ Whoever is Lib Dem leader has the massive task of rebuilding trust in the government of the United Kingdom and the new Labour leader is already facing mounting criticism within his own party. If we rebuild trust we might be on the way to shaping new statesmen and women.

But we must “hang together” globally. In the past few months we are seeing a better understanding between people of different backgrounds and respect for every person wherever they might be.

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A longer read for the lockdown: Compassion and Coronavirus

Thanks to COVID-19 we may well be on the cusp of a public mental health crisis. The ONS (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/
healthandwellbeing/bulletins/coronavirusandthesocialimpactsongreatbritain/
latest#understanding-the-impact-on-society
) reports that 48% of adults feel their well-being has been affected by COVID-19, with evidence of a continuing upward trend, while 31% of those whose well-being has been affected said it was making their mental health worse. Grief, loneliness, uncertainty, an inability to access health and social care, and rising levels of domestic abuse are only some of the factors that are affecting people’s mental health right now. Many I am sure will have seen the following chart indicating the potential size of this harm relative to other aspects of the COVID-19 crisis.

4 waves of impact

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