So it appears we have to learn to live with Covid. That’s not me making that statement by the way, that’s what prime minister Boris Johnson said in a televised press briefing in June.
And that sentiment was backed up by Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, who said the virus “will be with us forever” and by Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, who warned of Covid illness and deaths “for the rest of our lives”.
And what of the new health secretary? Well Sajid Javid was in bullish mood when he said that the country must “learn to live” with Covid-19 in statement to MPs when he confirmed the government’s so-called Freedom Day plan to return England to ‘normality’ on July 19.
But the phrase ‘learn to live with it’ is just about as meaningless as all of the government’s other slogans. Exactly what does ‘build back better’ mean? Or how about ‘levelling up’? or ‘oven ready’ or ‘take back control’. That’s the beauty of slogans, they can mean whatever you want them to mean.
Now here’s the interesting thing, What Sajid Javid actually said was: “We are going to have to learn to live with Covid and find ways to cope with it – just as we already do with flu.”
But we now have the evidence of what ‘learn to live with Covid’ actually means for England as far as the government is concerned. Just where exactly are the ways to cope? I can’t see any.
All I can see is the government has washed its hands of anything to do with trying to mitigate the effects of the virus. The outcome of that appears to be the government being prepared to accept 40,000 new infections a day and 100 or more deaths a day.
That’s not finding ways to cope with the virus, that’s just letting people take their own chances.
To be honest, all the regulations around lockdowns, mask wearing and social distancing were never about saving people from coronavirus. The sole driver of all the government’s pandemic policies was to stop the NHS being overwhelmed. This is the clash between personal health and public health.
Now it looks like the vaccine roll-out is keeping hospitalisations and deaths down to an ‘acceptable’ level (acceptable to the government, not to the families, friends and loved ones of the deceased), the government couldn’t care less if your hairdresser wears a mask or if schoolchildren are crammed into poorly ventilated classrooms.
So what should ‘learning to live with Covid’ actually mean; exactly what ways should we find to cope?
Don’t look to the government for help, you won’t get any. So for the extremely clinically vulnerable, I’m afraid you are just going to have to take your chance.
So on the one hand, we have the government basically indicating the pandemic is over as far as they are concerned and yet things aren’t back to normal, are they?
For example, I had to go to the doctors last week. To get any kind of appointment I had to be ‘telephone triaged’, which was basically me telling the receptionist all my symptoms and then someone, don’t know who, decided I could be seen. Not by a doctor, oh no, I was seen by a nurse practitioner.
Anyway, I turned up at the surgery and the door was locked. I had to buzz through on an intercom and answer a load of questions about the state of my health and my Covid status. I also had to wear a facemask all the time I was there.
Most of the seats in the waiting room were blocked off to allow social distancing and I had to clean down my chair with an antiseptic wipe when I was called though.
Only two or three patients were allowed in the waiting room at any one time while others had to wait outside. And there was a one-way system in the building so I ended up having to go out of the back door.
The point I’m making here is that for good or ill, the medical professionals at my surgery still consider Covid to be a dangerous risk and have put mitigations in place. They’ve found ‘ways to cope’.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully realise society and the economy needs to open up and yes, we do need to find ways to cope with the virus but that’s not by sticking your fingers in your ears, going la, la, la and pretending all is OK. It’s not.
We’ve now got a seven-day rolling average of more than 100 deaths a day, and a horrendous backlog of hospital waiting times that will see even more people die who could have been saved if treated promptly.
And closer to home, more than 600 new Covid-19 cases were reported across Mid Cheshire during the latest 24-hour period at the time of writing.
A total of 614 people tested positive in the 24 hours to September 3, double the number of cases from two days earlier.
There’s not much learning to cope going on there, that’s more like criminal negligence on the part of the government that now just seems bored with the whole pandemic.
Surely learning to cope with the virus means finding behaviours and policies that make us all a little safer without placing huge impositions on our lives. How about having to wear masks on public transport and in shops, or is that too much to ask?