Sunday, February 14, 2021

Coronavirus 50 Zero Covid

It's just over a year since I started writing this series of thoughts about the pandemic, a year during which the UK has suffered about 130,000 deaths, almost all of which would have been avoided had the government followed the advice of scientists (and me). Beyond the deaths and their associated tragic consequences, there is the as yet unknown consequence of Long Covid.

The failure to close borders in February 2020, to lockdown as soon as there was any community transmission, and the continuing failure to track, trace, find, isolate and support every case and their contacts ensured disaster.

There was a turning point last summer when the outbreak could have been suppressed but the first lockdown was ended too soon and the murderous 'eat out to help out' was introduced, producing a mindset amongst politicians and the public that ensured the inevitability of a second, more deadly wave. Again the advice of scientists were ignored and children and students were sent back to their schools and universities. 

And here we are, watching the government repeating the same mistakes all over again. Yesterday, Saturday 13th of February 2020, my day started with listening to David Davies MP talking on the radio saying that we must learn to live with Covid. During the day it transpired that this was not just the idle talk of a backbencher with little influence, as Health Secretary Mr Hancock and then Prime Minister Mr Johnson repeated the message. This was a coordinated effort to sell the new Government mantra 'Learn to Live with Covid'. And they repeated the long debunked notion that we could live with Covid "as we do with flu". This morning the top BBC News headline reads  "Covid: Remove all lockdown laws by May, Tory MP group demands".

If this way of thinking is not changed then, one day, Saturday 13th of February 2020 will be seen to be another turning point; a moment when the government had the opportunity to choose a strategy of suppression and elimination leading to Zero Covid, but instead chose the other path, the path of continuing catastrophe with untold death and disease through an indefinite future.

Having survived a year of mismanaging the pandemic without the public demanding their removal, the government perhaps thinks they can weather the third wave of disease, this being easier than standing up to the anti-science rhetoric coming from Tory backbenchers and some sections of the public that have been misled.

Prevalence of the virus is still high, lockdown is half-hearted, test-track-trace-find-isolate-support is ineffective, borders are leaky, partial vaccination of the population, while offering some protection to some, produces an environment that increases the selection pressure for mutation, adjusting vaccines to new variants will be a perpetual arms race with a time lag of months, and people are booking summer holidays.

SARS-CoV-2 is not like flu. It can be suppressed and eliminated. We chose not to 'live with' polio and small-pox. We can choose not to live with Covid. Measles is a better comparison than flu to keep in mind, suppressed with vigilance and vaccination, the occasional flare-ups dealt with so that it is no longer a mass killer to be feared. But the phrase 'nobody is safe till everybody is safe' is good. Vaccinating Africans is as important and urgent as vaccinating Europeans.

The whole world, not just countries in the eastern hemisphere where daily life continues almost as normal, needs a Zero Covid strategy. Those who oppose this approach are responsible for the avoidable deaths so far and will be responsible for future deaths.

Join the ZER0 COVID campaign.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Coronavirus 49 My MP 2

In my previous blog post here, I published my recent correspondence with my MP, Victoria Atkins, or at least with someone in her office. I have received a letter in the post, signed by Ms Atkins herself, including a letter from Nadhim Zahawi MP, Minister for Business and Industry and Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment.

Neither her nor his letter addresses, at all, the point I raised: the breaking of a contract implied by the signing of a vaccination consent form by a member of my family last December. 

It's worth reading the whole correspondence to understand and make sense (if sense there be) of the process. The important thing to note is that my letter was not concerned with the question of whether the spacing of doses should be three weeks or six from a public health benefit point of view. It was just about the legality, or otherwise, of changing the procedure that had been agreed with my relative and the rather small number of other people who were in a similar situation when the policy changed.

The content of my letter has been totally ignored, both by Ms Atkins and Mr Zahawi. They both addressed a different matter. I had asked that Ms Atkins took my concern to Mr Hancock, the Secretary of State, and, as you will have seen from my correspondence, she eventually promised so to do. But it appears that she didn't. Hence the letter from Mr Zahawi instead.

The question arises did Ms Atkins deliberately avoid the issue I raised, and divert to an easier topic in the hope that I would go away and stop irritating her, or did she, her staff and Mr Zahawi, all just not read my letter, glancing at the content and jumping to the wrong conclusion as to what it was about. Was it conspiracy or cock-up?

Either way, it begs the question what is the point of writing to one's MP, or even having a constituency MP at all.

Anyway, here are the letters from Ms Atkins and Mr Zahawi and then my reply to Ms Atkins and her office staff person, Mr Reid:

Dear Ms Atkins and Mr Reid,

Thank you for your letter of the 29th January.

When I wrote to you, Ms Atkins, on the 1st of January I described the position of a family member, a doctor. I wrote “When a consent form is signed, a legal contract is entered. This contract has now been broken, unilaterally, by the Government.”

I asked you to “Please represent my concern to the Minister, Mr Hancock, today and do your best to ensure that the Government honours its contract.”

At no point did I raise the question of the wisdom of the interval between Covid vaccination doses; my concern was restricted to the breaking of a contract.

In our ensuing correspondence, Mr Reid, I repeated that my concern was on the narrow point concerning the contract, and was therefore a matter for Mr Hancock. On the 15th of January you wrote to me assuring that … ”As requested Victoria will also write to the Secretary of State about this matter”.

I was therefore disappointed by the content of your letter, Ms Atkins, as it made no reference to the matter about which I had written to you.

On the 22nd January, Mr Reid, you wrote “As soon as we do get a response, Victoria will pass this on to you.” No response from Mr Hancock has been forthcoming.

Instead you have forwarded to me a letter from Mr Zahawi, who wrote “I understand Mr Vernon’s concerns”. 

There is no evidence that Mr Zahawi has even been informed of my concerns, let alone understands them, since there is no reference within his lengthy letter to my concerns. His letter is entirely about a different, if tangential, subject.

Let us, therefore start again, with the matter that I wrote to you, urgently, on the 1st of January. My family member, a hospital doctor wrote:

"I received my first dose yesterday, booster (was?) booked in ~3 weeks. Didn’t count on being thrown into an unregistered trial without evidence or medical oversight. Nor did I consent to receiving an off-label drug with no evidence of benefit from one dose. Of course the government were going to cock this up, predictable delays/lost data etc...but I didn’t expect them to overrule the license for political expediency."

Let me emphasise yet again, my concern is not over the public health benefits of different vaccination intervals, but only about the narrow issue of consent to a medical procedure being a contract between the patient and the provider, in this case my relative and the NHS, and that this contract was broken at the behest of the Secretary of State.

I asked “Please represent my concern to the Minister, Mr Hancock, today and do your best to ensure that the Government honours its contract.”

The contract was broken. Your delay in representing my concern and the consequent lack of action from the Secretary of State have seen to that. Will you now ask Mr Hancock to acknowledge that he broke a contract with my relative and provide us with assurance that government contracts will in future be honoured rather than broken.

Trust in one's constituency MP is built upon, amongst other things, their ability and willingness to read the contents of a constituent's letter and act on its contents, rather than address some other matter.

Trust in government is a precious thing, easily destroyed and hard to rebuild.

Yours sincerely

Biff Vernon