The Tories confirmed on Monday that they will lift Covid-19 restrictions next week even though scientists are warning of the huge risks.
The tone of exuberant liberation had to be softened because the evidence of danger is so obvious. But the fundamental policy is unchanged.
And there is an added element of ramping up the blaming of ordinary people for whatever disasters come now. If you fall ill it’s because you made the wrong “personal choice”.
The government can’t admit it, but its policy is one of achieving herd immunity. The virus will be let rip during the summer in the hope that by winter enough people will be protected by vaccination or by having been infected.
It’s playing with lives. Isabella Eckerle, professor of virology at Geneva university, calls the Tories’ plans “criminal frankly.”
Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at Cambridge university, said, “There will be unnecessary deaths as a direct result.”
England is the first country in the world to lift restrictions in the face of exponentially rising Covid-19 cases.
Imperial College London’s React study reported last week that between the periods 20 May-7 June and 24 June-5 July, the number of new infections quadrupled.
It says, “Cases are continuing to rise rapidly, recently doubling every six days”.
There are at least four severe dangers of the Tory plan. One is that rising cases will lead to levels of hospitalisation and deaths that far exceed the present levels.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi admitted on Sunday that by the end of August, hospitalisations could reach the level they were at in April 2020.
April 2020 was the moment of a huge upsurge of the virus.
Secondly, the upsurge of Covid-19 cases will mean other health issues are ignored.
Health secretary Savid Javid wrote on Sunday that the number of patients on hospital waiting lists could soar to 13 million over the coming months. The number presently is 5.3 million—itself a record.
And millions of vulnerable people will be forced to shield without any proper economic support.
Thirdly, large numbers of people could be hit by “long Covid”, even if they do not have to hospitalise.
Finally, and most terrifying, the Tories are creating a perfect environment for the emergence of new and deadlier virus strains. Some of these could escape control by the present vaccines.
Zubaida Haque, a member of the independent Sage scientists groups, rightly said, “When the prime minister says we’re living with Covid, what he really means is that some people will be living with Covid, and others won’t.”
Euro crowds will mean new cases in tens of thousands of people
The Euro football tournament is likely to cause a devastating spike in coronavirus cases.
Wembley stadium held more than 60,000 fans during the finals on Sunday.
There seemed to be no restrictions on mask wearing at the venue or social distancing.
UN health agency Covid technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, tweeted during the final, “Am I supposed to be enjoying watching transmission happening in front of my eyes?”
“The #COVID19 pandemic is not taking a break tonight.
“#SARSCoV2 #DeltaVariant will take advantage of unvaccinated people, in crowded settings, unmasked, screaming/shouting/singing. Devastating.”
Fans had been urged to get at least one vaccine before attending the match.
The Tories also agreed that Italian fans who had purchased a ticket for the Euro final would be able to travel to Britain, and would not need to self-isolate before. And it wasn’t just the fans who have the potential to spread the virus.
There was panic after three TV crew members from the Italian broadcaster, Rai, tested positive for the virus in London while preparing to cover the final.
Boris Johnson has defended the decision to allow tens of thousands of fans to watch the match, saying that the vaccine has created “a wall of immunity”.
But with the Delta variant ripping through even those who are fully vaccinated, infection rates are still rising at an alarming level.
And the Tories extended pub opening hours on Sunday for the final.
Large crowds that had gathered on the streets to watch the game, also had the potential to become super spreader events.
There are worries that the tournament will mean that places in Britain that have previously seen low infection rates, will see them soar.
For example, in places such as Plymouth cases rose to the highest they have ever been last weekend.
Leading modeller professor Karl Friston estimates that 70,000 people will have contracted Covid-19 as a result of events surrounding the England v Denmark semi-final.
He predicts they will go on to infect nearly 500,000 people within a month.
The health effect of the gatherings for the final will very likely be even more devastating.
Cases of the virus are continuing to rise at an alarming level even before the Tories “freedom day” on 19 July fuelled in part by the Euros.
The relaxing of the rules looks to be leading to a potential third wave of the virus.
Vaccine nationalism is an ‘indefensible’ threat
The mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic has taken over 4 million lives since the outbreak began 18 months ago.
“The world is at a perilous point in this pandemic,” said World Health Organisation chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
He added that the figure “likely underestimates the overall toll”.
“Some countries with high vaccination coverage are now planning to roll out booster shots in the coming months and are dropping public health social measures and relaxing as though the pandemic is already over,” Ghebreyesus added.
Unequal global vaccine distribution means poorer countries suffer huge virus spikes as their health services reach capacity and suffer medical supply shortages.
This will increase the chance of virus mutations developing which may be resistant to the current vaccines.
“Vaccine nationalism, where a handful of nations have taken the lion’s share, is morally indefensible,” said Ghebreyesus.
He said that virus variants are currently exceeding vaccines due to the unequal distribution of available doses.
Governments see vaccines as the key to “business as usual,” but also hoard them in competition with each other.
By restricting the number of vaccines other competing nations get, they hope to give themselves a head start in the race for profit.
The patent on vaccines needs to be waived and distribution should be free and equal.
Bed, staff and jab shortages fuel crisis in South Africa
The Covid-19 death toll is surging in South Africa. Some 300 daily deaths have been reported over the past week.
South African doctors say the health system is at breaking point. A lack of staff and beds, as well as limited supplies of oxygen, have become the norm.
Often beds are only freed as a patient dies. There have been over 2.1 million confirmed cases in South Africa, and over 63,000 deaths officially.
The real figure is much higher.
Africa has the lowest vaccination rate of all the continents.
Just four doses have been administered per 100 people compared to 99 in North America and 71 in Europe. Many African countries rely on the Covax vaccine sharing arrangement.
But the programme falls short, only supplying enough vaccines to vaccinate 20 percent of Africa’s population.
At this rate, many more people will suffer and die whilst they wait to receive a vaccine, which could be in 2023.
Slow rollout threatens a third wave across Europe
Covid infections rose 10 percent last week across Europe due to the fast easing of restrictions, mass gatherings and new variants of the virus.
The UN health agency’s European director Hans Kluge said that the vaccine rollout is not fast enough to deal with the recent spike and potential third wave.
Some 63 percent of European residents have not received their first dose of the vaccine.
Kluge added that 40 percent of healthcare workers are unprotected. “That is unacceptable, and that is far from the recommended 80 percent coverage of the adult population,” he said.