“Definitely misguided... a bit absurd”

Submitted by AWL on 13 July, 2021 - 8:18 Author: Martin Thomas
Covid warning sign

Some scientists very critical of the Tories, like Allyson Pollock and Alasdair Munro, are cautious about condemning the 19 July restriction-easing plans.

Whatever we do, Covid will continue to swirl around the world on one level or another for a long time. Lockdowns have social and medical costs, cannot be continued forever, and may even make later virus-surges worse. Sustainable long-term mitigation will be reached only by vaccinating and revaccinating the elderly and vulnerable, and developing and refreshing broad immunity among the younger by us getting the virus, probably, several times over life, but mildly (as is usual in younger cases). Arguably the risk of death if infected with Covid-19 in well-vaccinated Britain now is comparable to that if infected with flu (though estimates for the risk from flu vary a lot from one study to another, and one flu wave to another).

Yet even Munro says that “some of [the Tories’ scheme] is definitely misguided”. On the “argument put forward for July 19th UK reopening [so as] to bring infections forward [and] reduce [the] winter wave”, he cites Adam Kucharski: “the idea that we could tailor a pandemic to get ‘better’ sized future waves [is] a bit absurd”. We know too little to make such scheming valid.

Even though “zero Covid” is unrealistic, slowing the spread of the virus until vaccination is more complete, hospitals have a chance to rebuild capacity and reduce the backlog of non-Covid treatments, and vaccination is spread worldwide, makes sense. On the evidence, restrictions cramping life only slightly, combined with mass vaccination and good social measures, can slow the spread seriously (at least, now, curb the rise of hospitalisations).

World Covid deaths are running at a higher rate than the peak of April 2020, and now show a new increase, following on a new rise in the infection count from late June. The rise will probably accelerate as the Delta variant spreads across the world.

Even if new deaths in Britain can be limited, and a new peak of infections proves short-lived — two big ifs — it will surely harm medical efforts on a world scale to turn Britain into a giant export hub for the Delta variants, and maybe trickier variants evolved faster in a high-infection wave.

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