The Covid-19 pandemic set the stage for a conflict between the needs of the economy and those of public health. Where public health officials have urged caution and, prior to the Delta variant, championed a zero-Covid strategy, business leaders have favoured a more liberal approach of trying to “live with the virus” and keep the economy open as much as possible. With the vaccine rollout and the government telegraphing that things must return to normal, coupled with Covid-fatigue, people have embraced a more relaxed approach to Covid-19. Despite the fact that infections are still rising at meaningful levels, there is a narrative that the risks of death and hospitalization have significantly fallen. It is in this environment that the healthcare professionals are assessing the country’s Covid-19 prospects ahead of the coming winter.
The National Health Service (NHS) has raised concerns that the rising burden of delayed treatment for cancer and other illnesses on the health care system will become unsupportable. These concerns have also been expressed by the British Medical Association, which believes the government’s planning has been incompetent, given the immense risks ahead and the need to proactively enforce restrictions.
Many people have begun to talk about a “post-pandemic” world as if Covid-19 is now just a fringe phenomenon, but the numbers simply do not back up that assertion. We are still in the pandemic, not in some nirvana where it is behind us. The stark reality is that Covid-19 infection rates are at their highest since May 2020, with levels especially high in school age children. This is a staggering fact that is completely at odds with how people have become accustomed to thinking about Covid-19 and the “post-pandemic” period. Front-line doctors are seeing the toll that neglect is taking on the health care system. Hospitalizations are on the rise, and yet the government continues to trudge forward as if we are at the end of a cycle without any strain on the best primary care physician. Although the UK has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, it is important to note that the pandemic can only be over when the population has achieved herd immunity. Experts agree that we may have to vaccinate pretty much everyone for the country to truly have herd immunity. Otherwise, the virus will continue to circulate in the country, risking not just the lives of the unvaccinated, but of vaccinated people as well.
Government measures have pushed schools to return to normal, even though school age children are the most vulnerable population right now. This has led to some schools developing clusters of infections. One such school, Beaumont secondary school, outside London, is led by a principal, Martin Atkinson, who decided to take action without waiting for the government. He reinforced mask mandates, and surfaces in the school are disinfected between lessons.
The risks to children have been incredibly downplayed by both the government and the media. Again, this flies against the evidence. Almost universally, we are told that the risks are low, and that the needs of children to learn in-person are so strong that they override any public health concerns. So not only have children returned to schools, but restrictions have been relaxed. The data shows that the effects of this relaxation have been devastating, but of course, nobody is talking about it.
It’s obvious that Covid-fatigue and a post-pandemic narrative has led to a relaxation of fears and preventive measures by the public. The traumas of the lockdown were so great that many people want to believe that the pandemic is over.
Thankfully, many businesses have adjusted their practices to suit the pandemic era, so that you can still do many of the things you did before the pandemic, such as claim medical for medical negligence, or buy a pizza.