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.


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