The recent decisions of the authorities to limit the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic are doomed to fail – and the Tories’ wilful blindness is condemning the UK to many thousands more infections and thousands of deaths before Christmas.
The English government appears to think that the new wave of infections is a “north of England” problem – or at least to want to portray it as one. Any claim to genuinely believe locking down the north will stop the second wave have been exposed by leaks revealing their decisions to applying tighter restrictions to northern areas even though some of the northern towns have lower infection rates than southern areas left to run more or less normally.
But even if the intent were genuine, it would fail. Many people work outside the areas in which they live, while university students have travelled – again because of Tory delays – all over the country, some of them taking infection with them. Data will soon show the second wave breaking across the whole of England.
Looking in the wrong direction
The government’s focus has been excessively, in fact almost exclusively, on hospitality as the key driver of the second wave – but while hospitality plays a role, the data shows that it is not even in the top four. Social care, work, family and education are the four biggest drivers. Restricting social contacts in hospitality is useless when the virus doesn’t stop to measure whether you’re working or having fun before infecting you.
The Tories’ approach to the pandemic has seemed to be full of magical thinking: stop anyone having fun and the virus will somehow decide not to spread, so they can keep the country at work and in school. It’s patent nonsense.
The key cause of the second wave is personal contact. Keeping schools open means some 500 million journeys a month and many billions of contacts – including among children who cannot possibly maintain physical distancing effectively. The government’s own scientists concluded that opening schools would push the R rate above one and fuel a second wave.
A false measure
The government is measuring coronavirus risk only by the consequences of exposure for the person infected. So because children and young people rarely die from COVID-19, the Tories (and Labour’s non-oppositional front bench) treat schools as ‘safe’. But schools and universities don’t exist in isolation. Pupils and students carry viral load back to their families and into society and avoidable deaths and damaging infections result; or they infect school staff who then suffer severe COVID or pass it to their families. Education staff are essential front-line workers but are being treated as cannon fodder.
Damaging the economy, too
A key part of the Tories’ goals is to keep businesses open in the belief this keeps the economy going. But in the long run the resulting delays to the measures needed only lengthen the economic problems and ultimately damage the economy more. Eat Out in August => curfews in September. These ‘boomerangs’ cause more damage.
So-called herd immunity has never stopped being the core of the Tories’ approach to the pandemic. Only the language changed after the public outcry against Johnson’s ‘take it on the chin’ idiocy.
But herd immunity without a vaccine is impossible without a catastrophic loss of human life. Attempting it in winter will cause a syndemic & overwhelm our NHS impacting all other admissions & A&E. We do not have the capacity. Besides, it would require 8 full blown waves & still fail.
Already a horrific ‘second wave’ death toll
Coronavirus deaths in the UK have numbered more than a thousand since the beginning of September. The public has become desensitised to the death toll because it hasn’t reached the horrific levels seen in April. But if the second wave is not stopped, deaths might occur at a lower rate but will still run into many thousands – just a over longer period.
By failing to focus on cutting the number of social contacts the government is on course to kill thousands. Shrinking ‘bubbles’ in leisure and family life but keeping schools, universities and workplaces open is senseless and doomed to fail.
The virus doesn’t care whether you’re working, learning or having fun.
*This article is based on discussion of a thread by @ToryFibs
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