CURRENTLY across the UK, we are experiencing our third epidemic wave. Coronavirus cases are doubling every nine days. This means that in the space of a month, cases could increase ten-fold. Our current situation is already alarming; at present, eight of Europe’s 10 highest regions with coronavirus infections are in the UK, six of which are in Scotland. In some parts of Scotland, one in 100 people are infected, and that number continues to rise. Does this matter? Our government in Westminster say not, because hospitalisations aren’t going up much and vaccines are doing their job.
Yesterday Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that on July 19, all legal restrictions around Covid-19 will be lifted. This means there will be no limits on the numbers of people that can gather inside, and no mandatory requirements for masks or for social distancing. Nightclubs will be open. The whole shebang.
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It is obvious that lifting restrictions so dramatically will lead to further increases in the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths. However, we simply don’t know the extent by which these things will happen. Most predictions are that hundreds or thousands of people will be hospitalised a day in a few short weeks, with hundreds of deaths a day. So what will happen next?
Our ministers say that it is better to take the hit now rather than in winter, because in winter the NHS will be under pressure from other diseases that always cause trouble at that time of year such as flu. It may explain why they have removed the mask mandate – it will help us catch the virus more quickly. It is essentially a nationwide pox party, except that this virus kills people. Sadly, the hardest hit it will be children, who we are refusing access to vaccines. If we wanted, we could have most of the people who are now at serious risk of Covid-19 illness vaccinated by the winter; instead, we will gamble the health of our children.
Westminster is also brazenly ignoring the long-term impacts of infection. Around one million people across the UK are living with long Covid, and almost half of them have been for over a year. We don’t understand what causes long Covid, how we can treat it, or what will happen in five, 10 or 50 years to the people who suffer from it. Long Covid is not measured in the hospitalisation data that is used to support relaxing measures, but maybe a million more will be suffering for months or years as a result of this easing – from a vaccine-preventable syndrome.
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Are the Government going to take responsibility for the impending cases, deaths and long-term illnesses? Absolutely not – Westminster is declaring that now the matter of infection control becomes a “personal responsibility”.
Protecting yourself, and others, against sexually transmitted infections is an example of personal responsibility. Coronavirus is airborne though – as soon as you go to work or the supermarket, you can’t control who you are sharing air with; “personal responsibility” is impossible. Many people will not have a choice about being maskless indoors with other people –examples include shop assistants, bus drivers, restaurant and bar staff.
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This is why, regardless of what the First Minister decides, I am going to continue to wear my mask whenever I’m indoors with other people – to protect both them and myself. Don’t just take my word for it – in yesterday’s briefing, both Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance confirmed that they will continue to wear masks. Masks will offer some protection from not only coronavirus, but also other viruses that spread the same way – such as flu, which the Government have admitted that they are concerned about in the coming winter.
As well as keeping my mask on, I’ll be keeping my distance too, at least until case numbers start to come back under control. Please, I beg you to do the same, for your health, and the health of your loved ones.