Opinion: ‘Covid: We are simply not there yet’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 16th January 2022, 3:15 pm
Lateral Flow Tests should remain free.
Lateral Flow Tests should remain free.

From the start of the pandemic, the preference of this Government has been to find a way to “live with” the coronavirus.

People may recall Boris Johnson suggesting in 2020 that Britain would have to take the pandemic: “on the chin” and develop herd immunity.

We are in a much different place now: the vaccines are mitigating the sickness and death associated with the virus. That said, we are not in a place where the coronavirus should in any way be considered “normal” or something we can just blithely ignore.

As I write this, the numbers say that over 300 people lost their lives yesterday and hospital admissions associated with covid have climbed to over 18,000. Deaths are one statistic, and thankfully the vaccines have mitigated this; however, our hospitals being overstretched is another.

I am concerned that if the wards fill up with covid patients there will be fewer beds for people who suffer heart attacks or have accidents, let alone those who require cancer treatment. Furthermore, if the wards are stuffed to bursting with covid patients, what happens to those vulnerable cancer patients who are sharing the same facilities?

We are simply not there yet.

I read in the newspaper that they may cancel free lateral flow tests: on the face of this, this seems insane.

There are things we can cut out of the budget, and with all due respect to Her Majesty, a Royal yacht seems like an extravagance at the moment.

However, we need to maintain the steady flow of testing so that we can know where we are at. Or does the Government hope that if there are fewer tests, then we won’t see as many cases as a consequence, and somehow it will fade into the background?

If this is their strategy, it is a dubious one.

Things don’t disappear just because we wish them away or ignore them.

I am certain that we are going to get out of this via a combination of evolution of the virus, which is likely to become endemic at some point, and vaccination. However, although this future can be predicted, it cannot be brought forward. Willing it into existence has all the efficacy of sending a message in a bottle.

Until such time as the virus abates, we should demand that free tests continue.

If the Government shows continued signs of detachment from present realities, it lay with us, the public, to keep our heads about us and make sure that we are sensible in our behaviours. Social distancing, avoiding crowds, washing hands, wearing masks in crowded public places, all will help. We should continue to go out of our way to try and protect the vulnerable, whether they are a neighbour or a family member. We should continue to support third sector organisations and charities as much as we can to deal with the fallout of the coronavirus, whether that it is loneliness or increased dependence on food banks.

The Government wants us to live with the coronavirus; by default, we are left to our own devices.