As Covid-19 cases in New Forest District continue to decline (5 per 100,000) I am dismayed by to-day’s announcement of new and economically damaging restrictions on our liberties.
Think back to February. The initial phase in our strategy to deal with Covid-19 was ‘Confine’: to confine it by identifying it through testing, and then quarantining cases and contacts. It was understood however, that this would be temporary and that inevitably it would get out and start spreading in the community. So, the next phase was ‘Delay’: The purpose of delaying the spread was to ease the strain on the NHS by reducing the infection rate until we got to the summer when there would be fewer other winter pressures like flu for hospitals to deal with. We also hoped Covid-19, a coronavirus like flu, would be equally seasonal in its behaviour and abate in the summer.
There was no expectation that we would implement extreme measures, rather the advice was to wash your hands frequently and be sensible about social distancing. We anticipated acquiring a herd immunity through the manageable spread of the disease.
We witnessed hospitals in Italy being overwhelmed and other countries bringing in draconian lock-downs. Then, modelling by the team from Imperial College London suggested that, if we carried on as we were, 500,000 would die (they have form in vastly over-estimating deaths from other diseases), the Government was spooked, it changed course and ordered the lock-down with all its devastating consequences.
Flu kills all year round – In the last weeks of July it killed 1000 of us (where Covid-19 killed only 200)- but it is seasonal: it certainly kills a lot more of us in the winter. Equally, we should stop talking about another wave of Covid-19 and instead, like flu, start expecting its annual season.
Having peaked in April Covid-19 abated over the summer. Inevitably it will get worse in winter. It may also be worse this winter than might otherwise have been the case. This is because we carried on with a number of restrictions on normal social life during the summer, reducing our ability to acquire and share herd immunity and wasting the opportunity provided by the weakest period for the virus.
My contention remains, as I have said many times over the last months, that our over-reaction to the disease has done much more lasting economic damage, and, counter-intuitively, even more damage to our health than the disease itself.
The current strategy merely kicks the can down the road. If the measures work and reduce the spread, the virus will simply reappear later.
Of course, we could be lucky and get a vaccine or a cure, or even ‘moon-shot’ daily tests to enable us to return to normality, but none of these are certain.
One day there may be a virus that threatens our whole way of life – but this isn’t it, even if we are behaving as if it were.