I wrote to my MP today to request a change in covid strategy to a zero-covid approach, as outlined below (kept briefer in my correspondence!). Alas I have no confidence this incompetent and dithering Conservative government has the vision or will to do anything like it. They need to treat the covid crisis with far greater urgency and much less complacency. It is quite clear that infection rates are out of control in this country; we’ve had days of the highest rates of infections so far recorded, and hospitals in the worst affected areas are already utterly overwhelmed — Without a rapid change of approach this is doomed to get even worse.
It is long past time the government switched from aiming to control the virus to seeking to eliminate it entirely. By persistently pursuing measures which merely seek to slow down the spread of the virus they have left openings for it to reassert itself, as it has now done so repeatedly. More troubling, this action which allows the virus to continue to spread, has given it the opportunity to mutate once already to a more virulent form, and leaves the possibility that it could do so again, to become more infectious, more deadly, or most worryingly, resistant to the vaccines now coming into effect.
The government has used the new strain as an excuse for latest restrictions, but let’s be clear here: If they had not allowed the virus to continue spreading so much before now, it is far less likely there would be a new strain at all. A strain now being exported from this country and putting the entire planet at greater risk!
It is critical they seek to deny it these opportunities by stopping it spreading. The approach so far has taken us through months of lockdowns and tiering. In the process crippling the economy and putting a huge psychological burden on the entire population; unable to go about our lives in any meaningful way, causing huge stress, isolation, and impacting education, among much more. It never had to be like this, and it doesn’t have to continue to be.
Many other countries, including plenty with similar population levels, densities, dynamics, and economic activity as the UK, have been able to nearly completely eliminate transmission by having much more stringent lockdowns in the first place, far more aggressive and effective tracing and isolating, and controlling importation with properly monitored borders. Our country has consistently failed on all those counts by putting in place comparatively timid systems.
Perplexingly for a government that has been born out of a desire to assert Britain’s place as an island nation, and control borders, our government seems utterly unwilling to do that — At any other time I would be seeking to eliminate borders entirely (I aspire to a free and open borderless world); yet now when we actually need them, the government refuses to use them!
Similarly this government has been obsessed with allowing businesses to continuing operating throughout this period, and reopen those they have restricted as soon as possible. This has reduced the viability of all the lockdowns and tiering, and led us back to those restrictions being reimposed. They seem to be blind to the fact that the entire economy could have bounced back with confidence and safety if they had been willing to impose tougher restrictions more urgently and effectively from the start.
I would like to see the government to impose an absolute national lockdown, permitting only essential services to operate; no other business, no education (save things that can be done remotely). This would cut almost all possible routes of transmission. In the weeks this was in place the tracing and isolation services should be remodelled to make it more effective, and make enforcement much stronger for all contacts of known infections. This should be supported by generous funding to anyone instructed to isolate, to remove any temptation to defy that instruction. Anyone entering the country should face similar much more stringent quarantine rules.
The vaccines are on the way, but they are months away from being available to all. To save lives in the immediacy, to allow the resumption of normal lives, normal education, and a full and swift economic recovery without the imposition of tier limitation or ongoing waves of lockdown, the virus needs to be halted in its tracks immediately.
I hope the government will realise this necessity soon. But alas I fear they will continue to approach this, always a couple of weeks too late, with the short-sighted and half-effective approaches that have already resulted in this country having among the worse death rates and economic outcomes of this crisis.
Illustration by the author
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