As political leaders continue to wrestle with the Covid19 crisis, how do the government ministers assess risk? For the PM it is the balance of risk, supporting a strong economy and the UK’s health. Being responsible for even one person dying is not something any leader wants to live with, hence the policy of lockdowns, both national and regional in an attempt to reduce individuals getting sick and/or dying. Yet lack of access to all of the NHS services and lockdowns have a serious impact. Patients may choose not to go to see their doctor/hospital as well as reduced services by the NHS. The risk is the short and long-term public health if cancer screenings are not accessed by patients, heart disease undiagnosed and mental health illnesses not being treated have serious consequences.
For business, lockdowns have been serious. I work in the building industry, at the start of the national lockdown building material suppliers suddenly shut – work could not continue as wood/steel/roofing materials were not available. Many have dug deep to ensure their business survives, some have lost their jobs, the furlough scheme helped many. The stress on small and medium sized business leaders has been enormous.
Hope comes in the form of the new anti virals medicines, these suppress the condition and provide a greater chance of surviving. Businesses are implementing social distancing, hand hygiene and taking seriously health safety commitment to employees and customers. So why restrict business in any form when they are ensuring measures are in place? Overall the immunity within the population is increasing as more people have recovered from the symptoms of Covid19. Oxford Dr Sunetra Gupta, epidemiologist with expertise in immunology suggests in the Great Barrington Declaration a national and policy ‘Focus on those with the highest risk and allow those who are at minimal risk to live lives to build up immunity to the virus.’ You could say this is a simple decision but it’s not for people in my position. I’m not at high risk but I have been very careful to wash my hands, wear a face mask, stick to the government guidelines and not ‘hug’ people I meet. I am shielding to be able to see each of my parents, who live in different places. One has a breathing issue, reported to the doctor earlier this year and is still waiting for a diagnosis and treatment – it’s now October. The other has been in intensive care and is seriously ill (not with Covid19) but in order to visit I must be free of any illness that could impede their recovery.
The statistics from Sweden have taught us lockdowns produce the same results longer term than no lockdowns. Instead – increase advertising, emphasise hand hygiene and social distancing. Dr Gupta’s Great Barrington Declaration was co-signed by Dr Stephen Bremner, professor of medical statistics and the University of Sussex, Brighton. Dr Bremner will have seen the hundreds of young people (& not so young) failing to socially distancing on either Hove lawns or Brighton beach throughout this crisis. One day I saw two special police constables attempting to ensure people socially distanced on the beach and promenade, in a sea of thousands of faces, an impossible task being gallantly carried out. If anywhere in the UK should have ‘herd immunity’ it must be here.
I have 3 suggestions for the UK Government:
Don’t restrict business, it’s in our commercial interest to keep staff well and at work, and keep our customers safe. Clients only pay if they are well and alive. Allow business in all its forms to ‘get on’ without further restriction to bring in the taxes you need to run the country.
Make family friendly policy re any Covid19 restrictions. In my bubble is a 70+ year old, with a serious underlying health condition. Our time with them helps their mental health and stops loneliness. Larger families could accommodate elderly relatives but the rule of 6 needs to increase to family plus 2 people. Let’s see a return to individual responsibility, too much state interference stops families from fulfilling their role.
Keep children in school but if you can’t then ensure all schools have training to provide lessons digitally via zoom. Many state school students missed out on months of learning yet in the private sector students continued to have daily lessons via zoom (they have proved it is possible). I was part of a team ‘Invicta Academy’ along with Anna Firth that provided hundreds of hours of catch up lessons and careers inspiration via zoom over the summer holidays 2020. Don’t cancel exams, the exam desks are placed apart.