‘Freedom’ cost unknown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson: "We will make sure we learn the lessons and reflect and prepare." ...
Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Reuters
Maybe Prime Minister Boris Johnson believed the old song line "freedom’s just another name for nothing left to lose" when he decided this week was the time to remove most internal Covid-19 restrictions in the United Kingdom.

Since he almost lost his life to the disease last year, his gung-ho approach to relaxing Covid-19 controls is hard to comprehend.

While the UK vaccination programme has been hailed as a success, there are still many young people without any vaccination protection and others who have not received second vaccinations.

As vaccinologist Associate Prof Helen Petousis-Harris has explained, the lifting of restrictions, including mask wearing and social distancing and limiting numbers of people at venues, gives the virus freedom to circulate widely among both the unvaccinated, and to some extent the vaccinated, and there will still be many people who will become sick, and some will die.

What is perhaps not well understood by those who believe, presumably as Mr Johnson does, that it is time to let the disease just run its course, is that as the virus incubates in each host, it mutates. And, as Prof Petousis-Harris points out, the more people who catch the disease the more mutations and the higher the chances that resulting variants will be able to evade natural and vaccine immunity.

Those vaccinated will come under pressure because there will be a high number of infectious people. The disease was already surging in the UK before the so-called " Freedom Day" this week, with numbers of new cases hitting 50,000 on some days recently.

But Mr Johnson, who ironically is now in isolation because of his close contact with his health secretary Sajid Javid, who had tested positive for Covid-19, was not able to be convinced by 1200 international scientists that his actions are reckless. Self-isolating is still required in the UK after contact with someone who returns a positive test, but Mr Johnson ludicrously initially attempted to wriggle out of it by suggesting he would be part of a pilot scheme involving daily testing, before realising that was politically unpalatable. Confused messaging from the PM seems to have been par for the course in the UK.

As we viewed the scenes of young people partying in the UK this week, it was hard not to wonder how many of them might be at risk of developing the illness soon and how severe it might be. How many deaths and how much disease will result from this "living with Covid-19" experiment? The implications for the long-term health of disease survivors who experience so-called "long Covid" and its impact on health services is also uncertain.

And as we uneasily watch and wait for the dice to roll in Mr Johnson’s gamble, closer to home we have the sad situation of more deaths and high numbers of cases in Fiji, lockdowns in Australia, and concerns about what may yet unfold at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

In this turmoil it is not clear when we might expect any easing of our border restrictions.

There is still a long way to go before our vaccination programme comes close to reaching the majority of the adult population, and we do not know what percentage coverage we eventually might achieve.

In any case, vaccination alone is not likely to be enough to keep infections at a low enough level to be manageable — we will still need testing, case isolation, mask wearing and contact tracing and some sort of border control.

Information from the first report from the Strategic Covid-19 Public Health Advisory Group, chaired by Prof Sir David Skegg, which has been looking at issues around border settings and vaccination, is expected to be released soon. Because we know we have much to lose, we would expect it to take a measured and rational approach to any future changes, unlike that of Mr Johnson.

 

Comments

View all

And watch the NZ fools who loudly bray that our prime minister should follow Boris’s example.
1200 scientists are wrong, Boris is right! I feel a Tui advert coming on.

And watch the NZ fools who loudly bray that our prime minister is right, lots of scientists (and others) are waking up.

The NZ prime minister has been following the advice an guidance of the scientists.
That's why NZ is still largely covid19 free.

Ah yes we must all bow down to "science", is it the same science that said masks don't work but now they do?, the same science that told us that the vaccine would stop covid in it's tracks but now tells us that we can still get and transmit the virus???....

Perhaps we need to put the spotlight on the shambolic vaccine rollout in New Zealand which is amongst the slowest in the world. Per the RNZ report today the Government is opening rollout to the general population despite poor rollout to the vulnerable population with only 12% of that group fully inoculated.

A global issue.

It's "Freedom is just another 'word' for nothing left to lose"
Singed, Janis Joplin.

"me and Bobby McGee" written by Kris Kristofferson. Classic!

View all

 

 

ev-and-hybrid-banner-updated_0.jpg

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter