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Covid forever, and ever


By Simon Gentry

And so 21 June slips to 21 July, but with schools set to re-open in early September, is it really wise to end all lockdown measures, wouldn’t it be wiser to wait till we had more information and until high school children have been vaccinated?

And so it slips into the Autumn, when due to concerns about the usual NHS flu crisis, we all agree that it would be wise to wait till the risk of the NHS being overwhelmed with flu has passed.  

And more and more variants are identified, all with some unattractive new feature.  The media agree, the stories keep coming, so why end the crisis now?  The longer it goes on the better. Masks continue to be required in all internal settings.  Cinemas and theatres remain ‘socially distanced’ permanently. We all remain working from home.  University lectures now unburdened of have to actually teach face to face, create a set of online video lectures which are deemed safer. The experts argue and the government hesitates, the economy adjusts, as we do, locked forever in this not-quite-free state. 

Farfetched?  Maybe. There are those in government and in Parliament who believe that this is at least a plausible scenario until summer next year.  In one sense, it’s we, the public who are aiding this.  Poll after poll show that the public are broadly content to remain unfree.  The reasons are varied, but for many their quality of life is higher and not facing unemployment, or not needing medical care, what’s the downside?

The Prime Minister perhaps having been a bit cavalier at the start of the pandemic, now after his time in an ICU is afraid to do anything which might risk another uptick in deaths.  His concern is underscored and amplified by the medical experts who are most influential around him and who are often infectious disease experts rather than leaders in cancer, and other serious disease, many of which are not being diagnosed in nearly the right numbers.  The infectious disease experts are delighted that there was no flu and only a tiny cold season last winter.  They believe that these two diseases could potentially be suppressed every year if we remain as we are.   Imagine 20,000 to 30,000 flu-related deaths precented each year.  It’s revolutionary.

The Conservative backbenchers seem quieter.  There were some, led by Graham Brady the Chair of the influential 1922 Committee, who were pressing hard for the restrictions to be ended this month, but they seem to have faded away, or at least are much quieter.

So, a bit like “It’ll be over by Christmas” or “One last heave”, the Prime Minister will today look earnestly into the camera, lower his voice an octave and urge us to find our fabled stoicism, for another month, or six.