Analysis: Ministers shift responsibility for fighting coronavirus to the public

As restrictions end, everyone will have a role to play in defeating the coronavirus, says health correspondent Shaun Lintern

Monday 12 July 2021 21:11
<p>It’s up to each one of us to learn to live with Covid in a way that considers our neighbours as well as our own safety</p>

It’s up to each one of us to learn to live with Covid in a way that considers our neighbours as well as our own safety

The government today passed the baton for fighting coronavirus to the public, as Boris Johnson confirmed that the last of the emergency Covid restrictions would be lifted from next week.

After 16 months of government-imposed curbs on our everyday life, it appears the government has decided that enough is enough and that it’s time for it to depart the pitch, mid-game, as a summer wave of infection builds.

Johnson’s message was simple. It is up to each and every one of us to look out not just for ourselves but for each other, because the government has now returned to the idea of herd immunity as the only way out of the pandemic.

The vaccines have done the hard yards, with 66 per cent of us double-dosed, but the rest, with only one dose or no dose, are at the mercy of chance and the Delta variant.

Not everyone will survive the next few months.

The latest documents from the government’s scientific advisers couldn’t be clearer. Whatever we do now, a summer wave is baked in. The number of hospitalisations could reach 1,000 a day within the next two weeks, with deaths as high as 200 a day in August.

The exact shape and size of this summer wave is difficult to predict, but all the scenarios show high levels of infection lasting until at least the end of the summer.

In the House of Commons, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, said the government believed that the current infections would not lead to unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

How this calculation was made, he didn’t share, but it comes as the number of hospitalisations have increased almost 60 per cent in the past week. Some hospitals have already had to cancel operations.

The vaccines have significantly reduced the number of deaths and hospitalisations, but the NHS has so little spare capacity that the prospect of 1,000 admissions a day will fill many hospital doctors and nurses with dread.

Living under Covid restrictions forever was never going to happen. A time had to come when the curbs were lifted, but with the health service under so much pressure already the situation could quickly backfire.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the prime minister shifted responsibility from the government to the public. He urged people to be cautious once restrictions end, saying: “This pandemic is not over. This disease coronavirus continues to carry risks for you and for your family.”

Many of us will continue to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds and wash our hands regularly; however, the problem with an infectious disease is that our safety relies not just on ourselves but the actions of everyone around us.

The modelling estimates by experts show that the slower life returns to normal, the less severe the peak and the less pressure the NHS will be under.

Now it’s up to each one of us to learn to live with Covid in a way that considers our neighbours as well as our own safety.

Not everyone around you on the train or in the pub may be as capable as you of fighting the virus. They may not have been vaccinated fully, or perhaps they have a weaker immune system because of cancer treatments or genetic diseases. Maybe they are just the unlucky ones who are more susceptible to Covid and death from infection. You can’t see these things; you may even be susceptible yourself and you won’t know until its too late.

As the scenes from Wembley and Leicester Square at the weekend show, not everyone will be as considerate as others, and Covid is perfectly placed to exploit this situation.

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