Occasional Pulse columnist Dr Ellie Cannon posted an excellent thread on the easing of restrictions yesterday. She pointed out the four categories of death due to Covid laid out by Professor Chris Whitty at the start of the pandemic: first, Covid deaths despite the best medical treatment; second, Covid deaths that were due to the health service being overwhelmed; third, non-Covid deaths due to people not having medical treatment; finally, deaths from economic decline.
It is because of this that I have always been so circumspect when discussing the easing of restrictions. I find it jarring when I see anyone talking in absolute terms: ie, ‘lifting restrictions is just allowing people to die’, or the alternative, ‘can’t they see what the restrictions are doing to us all?’.
But what scares me is when I feel like decisions are being made due to political reasons. I felt this last year when Boris Johnson urged us to get back to commuting, or Rishi Sunak asked us to eat out to help out. And I can’t help but think that about the new health secretary’s desire to remove restrictions on 19 July, regardless of the data.
Cases are growing at almost 40% per week and it seems irresponsible that this is the point our ministers think is the right time to have ‘Freedom Day’ (a term that itself is pretty irresponsible).
When we did our profile of both Sajid Javid and Matt Hancock, it was clear that Mr Javid has always been eager to open up more quickly, while Mr Hancock favoured a more cautious approach. And, looking at his choice of words and his background, I can’t help but feel that Mr Javid is putting the economy first for political reasons.
Of course, it is great that the vaccination programme seems to have broken the link between cases and hospitalisation. But we are so close with vaccinating the population. The other categories listed by Professor Whitty will not be badly affected by remaining cautious for another month or so while GPs and others finish off second vaccines for all adults. Because Long Covid is real, and there is still the fear that vaccine-resistant variants will spring up.
This, to me, isn’t a great first step from a new health secretary. I hope I am proved wrong.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.