Cast off our shackles, Boris – and throw away the keys: No more lockdowns, no jab passports, and no more home working. On the day the Prime Minister sets out his winter Covid plan, a rallying cry from Professor ANGUS DALGLEISH
When I picked up a newspaper yesterday and saw the headline ‘Johnson to rip up Covid restrictions’, my heart leapt.
Under the terms of his so-called ‘winter plan’ the Prime Minister was apparently close to shelving the despised travel ‘traffic light’ system, ready to abandon proposals for Covid passports, and had professed himself ‘dead set’ against another national lockdown.
On paper, it looks like a welcome bonfire of the restrictions that have caused so much damage to society and the economy — until you realise that in reality this is little short of a wish list, with everything, right down to another full national lockdown, still held in reserve.
Over the 18 long months that the pandemic has lasted, many restrictions placed on us by central government have been counterproductive or worse
Angus Dalgleish is a professor of oncology at a London teaching hospital
The news has appalled and angered me in equal measure. While Boris is clearly trying to restore the libertarian credentials for which he was once famous, the reality is he has once more engaged in a giant fudge — one for which there is not the slightest justification.
Over the 18 long months that the pandemic has lasted, many restrictions placed on us by central government have been counterproductive or worse.
Working from home, in particular, has been a disaster — for people, business and government. A dynamic and efficient economy thrives on face-to-face interaction. Zoom calls are no substitute.
And I remain convinced that compulsory mask-wearing is little more than a confidence-building measure, with little medical evidence that it plays a significant role in preventing transmission of the virus.
More than anything, I have been chilled by how easily we have succumbed to rules, which — with their reliance on barked orders and an expectation of compliance — could not be less in tune with traditional British values.
Even if you do not take this view, it is unarguable that a swathe of the population has been frightened into what feels like near-permanent isolation.
While Covid-19 remains present, its deadly grip on society has collapsed in the face of our vaccination programme
I’m amazed by otherwise sensible contemporaries who have retreated into their houses, only opening the door to receive grocery deliveries.
I think history will judge it all to be a gross overreaction, one that had a horrendously negative effect on the economy and destroyed the prospects of many younger people.
Sadly, we cannot undo these past travesties — but we can change the present. It is the time for a change of course. There must be no lockdowns, no vaccine passports — and if I had my way — no working from home or compulsory mask-wearing either.
In other words, we must return to normality. This is what we were told our Government wanted. Now they must prove it.
I do not say this out of ideological fervour but we do seem to have the virus on the run.
While Covid-19 remains present, its deadly grip on society has collapsed in the face of our vaccination programme.
We have known this for much of the year, but two recent studies have underlined it.
In July, an Imperial College London report showed that fully vaccinated people were three times less likely than the unvaccinated to test positive.
Last month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that of the 51,281 Covid-19 deaths in England between early January and early July this year, just 640 were people who were fully vaccinated. That’s 107 deaths a month, or 3.5 people per day.
This figure becomes even more astonishing when you realise it includes fatalities among people who had been infected prior to vaccination.
As the report authors themselves declared, ‘the risk of death involving Covid-19 was consistently lower for people who had received two vaccinations compared to one or no vaccination’.
The same ONS report showed that the average age of death for the double-vaccinated from Covid is now 84.
That’s nearly three years more than the UK’s life expectancy, which stands at 81.26.
In essence, people dying of Covid are now, on average, dying later than people who haven’t contracted the virus.
This is very welcome news, a vindication of the vaccination programme which the Government proclaimed would deliver us from this nightmare. As I write, more than 80 per cent of the population aged 16 and over have been jabbed.
It shows that while we are living with something that causes infections and death, the coronavirus is approaching minor importance compared with the huge risk of an increase in deaths from other causes, such as cancer and heart disease.
Those two conditions have long been serious, but today we have ever more reason to feel frightened of them.
Two months ago, colleagues of mine wrote a paper for medical journal The Lancet, in which they underlined how we must expect substantial increases in the number of avoidable cancer deaths due to diagnostic delays caused by Covid-19. To be blunt, I believe we are on the cusp of a shocking rise in the number of otherwise preventable deaths directly attributable to the Government’s obsessive, myopic focus on the coronavirus.
Now is the time to stop the dithering and end the creeping erosion of our fundamental freedoms. A view of empty Fleet Street in central London
In both a professional and personal capacity, I have looked with mounting horror at the number of people with worrying, sometimes chronic symptoms consigned to a telephone consultation with a GP three weeks after they have raised a red flag.
And I can only give thanks that — so far at least — my wife is not one of them. Twenty-five years ago, she found a lump in her neck which turned out to be a lymphoma.
Back then, she saw her GP the following day, was referred to hospital and was scanned and biopsied within a week.
If — as is likely today — she’d had to wait three weeks for a GP and a subsequent referral it would have been too late. It will certainly be too late for many others.
The bottom line is that all the statistics show that if you are double-vaccinated and not enormously overweight then Covid is unlikely to prove life-changing.
This, surely, is the best that any of us could hope for, as even a brilliant vaccine is rarely a panacea. Every year people get flu and die from it, despite being vaccinated.
Naturally, there are always outliers, and any death is a tragedy for the individual and their family — but it is not a basis for sweeping, ruinously expensive policies that dramatically affect the lives of an entire country.
Yet here we are, governed by ministers who, in their blinkered anxiety to tackle Covid above all else, seem content to let deaths by other causes rise dramatically. At the same time they are sending the country into a state of near-paralysis.
Perhaps we should not be surprised, after 18 months of what feels like countless U-turns by the Government.
It has flailed from one controversy to the next, whether it be the chaos of the ‘pingdemic’, which saw endless numbers of the population being told to self-isolate unnecessarily, or the endless changes to the travel rules.
Now is the time to stop the dithering and end the creeping erosion of our fundamental freedoms.
Angus Dalgleish is a professor of oncology at a London teaching hospital.
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