My source for this blogpost has been an article by Tom Bawden, published in the 'i' on Thursday 2 March 2023. Those of you familiar with the pattern and substance of my posts will know that I have become a self-styled Jeremiah figure, lamenting the failure of those who misgovern us to treat this deadly virus with the attention and seriousness required.
|For 'Exile Is Coming' read 'The Virus Is Still Here'|
The death toll in the UK has now passed 220,000; those suffering the effects of so-called 'Long Covid' number over two million. Yet the UK population has been lulled into a state of ignorance where most people assume the pandemic is over and the threat eradicated. Politicians have been driven by an ideology that prioritizes the supposed needs of the market and the unthinking pursuit of profit. They have been supported by a media that shares those same beliefs. The outcome has been what we see whenever we move outside our homes: a world that acts as if the virus has disappeared.
Tom Bawden writes:
'... experts warn we are still nowhere near seeing the back of Covid-19 - even though cases are temporarily falling the UK and public safety measures such as mask-wearing have been reversed'.
The group of leading Covid scientists canvassed by the 'i' newspaper were agreed that the situation was likely to remain much the same in the next twelve months. It is quite feasible that things could be even worse in five years time, although the hope remains that such a bleak assessment will not be justified. The pointis that what happens further down the time-line depends on a range of factors, some of which can be controlled and others which can't. These include how seriously the government of the day takes the problem and how willing people are to change behaviour, such as avoiding crowded spaces when waves peak and getting booster jabs whenever possible.
Much also depends on whether a nasty new variant emerges, or whether there is a resurgence of a previous variant, such as Alpha and Delta, in a modified form.
In these circumstances, we need what at present we don't have: a plan.
|The reality of hospitalisation from Covid infection|
Warmer weather and increased immunity mean that daily symptomatic infections are expected to continue to fall for at least a few weeks - but the fact remains:
COVID IS MORE PREVALENT NOW THAN IT WAS AT ANY POINT UP UNTIL DECEMBER 2021 - ALMOST TWO YEARS INTO THE PANDEMIC.
|Without the development of the vaccine, we would have been in such a terrible predicament|
The scientists surveyed agree that Covid remains a huge problem which is not being given anything like the attention it deserves. Infections can still be very serious in many cases and this may well continue to be the case for a lot longer. Professor Karl Friston, a virus modeller at University College London (UCL) concludes:
'Over the next five years, our model predicts there will be about four peaks per year - and that the amplitude of these peaks will slowly decline from year to year. Cases will fluctuate with between 1 and 3 per cent of the population being infected at at any one time - with 3 per cent corresponding to roughly 50 Covid-related deaths per day. In May 2022 last year we had around 7 per cent of the population infected and over last Christmas the figure was around 3 per cent. The waves are largely driven by fluctuations in immunity built up from vaccination and previous infections, which then wanes, and the extent to which people gather indoors which is shaped by the weather and events such as school holidays or major sporting events'.
It is worth recalling that Johnson, the PM at the time, had decided by the end of the summer of 2021 that 137 deaths a day (50,000 deaths a year) was the 'acceptable' ceiling figure for Covid deaths. Any more would mean unsustainable pressure on the NHS and therefore lockdowns and restrictions would have to be reintroduced. In fact, that number was exceeded at times in the months following without any government action; Johnson got away with it; the waves of Covid did decline in their relative severity. Yet on Professor Friston's upper forecast of 50 Covid-deaths a day, we could experience around 18,000 deaths from Covid every year for the next five years.
SARS-CoV-2 has not gone away.
|The long-term effects of Covid can be deadly, too|
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist from Warwick University, commented:
'Covid cases have stayed high, in part, because of complacency among the public. This means mask-wearing, booster take-up and other precautions are at low levels as most people's behaviour largely returns to how it was before the pandemic.
'The current degree of complacency is worrying, particularly for those in our society who are vulnerable and most at risk of developing severe disease if infected.
'It is also important to recognise the long-term effects of Covid ... and on a worldwide scale, the main issue is ensuring that Covid vaccination is reaching communities across the globe. This will reduce the development of new variants.
'In the UK, consideration needs to be given to the value of ventilation in enclosed spaces, particularly schools, where infection can spread rapidly. and we need to adopt a similar attitude to respiratory infection as is evident in the Far East where it is common socially-minded practice to wear a face mask if you have a cold to prevent others from getting infected.'
The scientists surveyed agreed that the Government should take the issue much more seriously, including regularly reminding the public of the dangers Covid poses and what can be done to reduce the risk of contracting it. Professor Danny Altmann of Imperial College London remarked:
'If I had the Prime Minister's ear on this I would ask for a big national campaign, with the same 'war spirit' and momentum as in 2020, to deliver the best possible pan-variant vaccine, which will need to be intranasal [nasal spray] to block transmission at the site of entry.'
DO YOU, LIKE ME, GET THE FEELING THAT THERE IS A MISMATCH BETWEEN THE REAL WORLD OF THE SCIENTISTS AND THE MAKE-BELIEVE WORLD POLITICIANS HAVE CREATED FOR THEMSELVES?
|SARS-CoV-2 - the coronavirus that hit the world from 1920 and is still active|