These desires must be tempered by the memory that we have already been here. The locks were lifted last summer, but the virus quickly returned. The fear that it may reappear in a deadly third wave cannot therefore be ignored, although two key factors should give us assurance that we are now better placed to control Covid-19 than in 2020.
The first comfort is simple. We can thank the remarkable success of a vaccination campaign that has seen over 32 million people in the UK receive vaccines, a program that puts the country on track to deliver vaccines to all adults here. July. And with vaccines not only preventing deaths and hospitalizations, but also inducing reduced virus transmissions, we can expect daily case rates to remain relatively modest. At least that’s the forecast, one that scientists will be watching very carefully over the next few months.
The second factor is less striking but still brings some comfort – as it is clear that a sense of caution now permeates the government, which seems better prepared to accept scientific advice and which seems less inclined to indulge in bragging and to an insistence on early reopening. of the country at all costs. That hasn’t always been the case, as Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar explained yesterday.
As Farrar said, terrible damage was inflicted on the country when ministers recklessly refused to impose a circuit breaker lockout in September, urged by advisers who had expressed alarm at the skyrocketing new cases of Covid -19 across the country. The end result was an increase in hospital admissions that ultimately led to a seven-week run in January and February when Covid deaths hit their highest level in 12 months.
People need to remember this very dark statistic. Boris Johnson’s government may have learned its lesson, but it only did so after tens of thousands of needless deaths occurred in the UK. The current lockdown that we are only now preparing to exit could have been lifted long ago if the government had been prudent, listened to its advisers and acted faster. Hopefully this now makes sense. To be sure, Johnson’s rhetoric shows some restraint at the moment. How long it stays that way is another matter.
The country must remain diligent in the coming months. As we specify elsewhere, there are real fears for the health of employees returning to work that have not been assessed for Covid risks – at a time when our vaccination program is still incomplete and dangerous variants are still circulating. One example is provided by staff at the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea, who are preparing to strike for safety reasons after more than 600 workers tested positive for Covid-19 these last months. Those who continue to work from home face further problems, with a group of call center workers learning that webcams could be installed to monitor their activity and level of work at home.
It is clear that after all of our lockdowns, the road back to normalcy will be difficult, a journey strewn with pitfalls as we try to readjust to the lifestyles we abandoned a year ago. We’re going to need time, effort and support to adjust to post-Covid life in Britain – and a government that recognizes the long-term nature of the problem.