Last March, the government worried about the country’s readiness to enter a national lockdown as public demands for stricter action to combat the spread of Covid-19 became unmistakable.
As it turned out, most people were much more averse to the sponsorship of harsh controls on everyday life than the government.
Critical ground was lost by waiting until the end of the month, and thousands of lives were lost unnecessarily with it. As the latest covid variant becomes more popular across the nation, it has become apparent that March’s lessons have not been learned.
Nicola Sturgeon has declared a national lockdown beginning at midnight in Scotland, where infection rates are lower than in England.
In comparison, despite utter uncertainty about reopening campuses, Boris Johnson has prevaricated and dithered. Finally, close to a week after this newspaper called for a lockdown, tighter controls on England are being imposed.
Every day of delay threatens preventable deaths, as former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt pointed out. For more than a week, a series of figures have highlighted the need for urgent action. The distribution of covid is out of reach, and the current system of restrictions is unable to cope with it at many levels. Concerns regarding a second South African version are rising. Hospitals are more capable of treating Covid cases, but as the chief medical officers of the United Kingdom said on Monday, they are obviously at risk of being overwhelmed.
An approximate 50 percent more Covid patients in southeast England are now in hospital than at the April season.
Hospital admissions continue to increase every day in the rest of the world. Without a drastic reversal, it would be difficult to escape the tragic landmark of 100,000 Covid-related fatalities in the UK.
In the meantime, cancer patients and people with severe health issues are not seen by overstretched NHS staff. The government has been hopelessly pursuing events since the run-up to Christmas, as if they were continually caught out by them. This week’s confusion surrounding the return of schools was eerily reminiscent of early spring. Then, as now, schools started to literally lock their doors. Workplaces emptied out as the people learned more easily than the government what to do. This time, on Dec. 22, Johnson’s scientific advisors cautioned that the exponential spread of infections meant that schools should remain closed and consideration should be given to a national lockdown. Being constructive, even though that means making difficult decisions, is the best method of crisis management.
But Downing Street stubbornly refuses to face the worst-case scenario and act until the worst has actually occurred. There will be tremendous economic and psychological consequences of the coming bleak midwinter.
Behind the curve, again, the primary priority of the government must now be on ensuring full compliance with the new restrictions. Another national freeze is backed by the overwhelming majority of the population.
But it will be important for national morale to ensure that the vaccine program is scaled up rapidly and efficiently.
In order to promote online learning, schools must eventually be equipped with sufficient tools, and clarification on the status of summer testing must come quickly.
Crucially, it is important to provide sufficient economic support to families and individuals as well as to those who need to be isolated. To ensure that individuals have the tools and financial security to do the right thing, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, must make it a priority. The willingness of the government to replicate the same mistakes endlessly does not inspire confidence.
Except for a short period of time, the best thing to do is to shut the floodgates while the population is being vaccinated. This is not the open-ended nightmare that started to unfold last February and March, as tough as the coming weeks will be.
It’s just a shame that the government didn’t understand and act earlier to recognize this shifting context.