The government must heed its own Covid mantra and ‘follow the science’

Editorial: There have to be doubts over whether the measures taken are robust enough – given other simple steps that could have been taken

Wednesday 01 December 2021 21:30

“Follow the science” has been a motto of the government since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Now we know that the scientific advice from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) recommended that “early robust action be taken” over the omicron variant.

Nervtag were plainly concerned about the emergence of omicron: “If introduced into the UK, B.1.1.529 would likely be capable of initiating a new wave of infections … We cannot exclude that this wave would be of a magnitude similar, or even larger, than previous waves. Although data on disease severity associated with B.1.1.529 are not yet available, a large wave of infections will be accompanied by a wave of severe cases and [Nervtag] cannot rule out that this may be sufficient to overwhelm NHS capacity.”

The measures put in place so far include some travel restrictions; those in contact with someone who has the variant being told to self-isolate; and face-coverings being made mandatory in shops and on public transport. Most importantly, the vaccine booster programme has been stepped up, with ambitious (and perhaps unrealistic) targets – though that does raise the question of why the booster programme, which is vital in any case, wasn’t proceeding at maximum speed hitherto.

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