The NHS is in crisis every winter so we need a plan where we can live with the coronavirus in our ‘wet plague-ridden country’ and start to normalise coronavirus as being here for a long time and inoculate against it annually.
Whilst it may genuinely feel like another wave of the coronavirus with omicron virus now dominant across the country, the vaccines have demonstrated they offer a substantial level of protection against the lethal effects of the virus by reducing hospitalisation and mortality rates compared to Delta twelve months ago. We may not be able to stop the omicron variant but we can live with cold symptoms for a week.
Not everyone agrees with Boris Johnson’s refusal to implement more restrictions in December – both Scotland and Wales have implemented further restrictions – but the data supports the current plan. Boris has been criticised for England’s ‘dangerous and unethical experiment’ of lifting all restrictions but they have actually worked as Christopher Snowdown argues in Spiked. The medical establishment still does not get it and seeks to protect the NHS with further restrictions using the worst case scenario from the models: it was the moment of “the greatest divergence between scientific advice and legislation” seen since the start of the pandemic as The Guardian warns us.
The NHS has an annual winter crisis exacerbated by ‘flu, no doubt further stretched by unvaccinated people hospitalised by the omicron variant. However, the pressure is way lower than twelve months ago with the Delta variant. The current challenges on the NHS can be absorbed with out the need for debilitating measures from the “protect the NHS” at all costs lobby that are looking for restrictions on education and the economy that are no longer arguable and would inevitably risk further damage to businesses and our children’s education.
There are known probabilities we can start to work with: there will be another variant; the next variant or wave is likely to affect us in the winter season; further boosters should work; not vaccinating is a higher risk of hospitalisation; and that variants are typically impossible to stop, only slow down their R rate.
So we need a plan that includes at least an annual booster for the winter months. We need a collective approach to identifying people without vaccination and supporting them to take it – employers and the voluntary sector are key influencers we are under using to respond to people who are wary of taking the vaccine.
Whilst it is everyone’s right not to take the vaccine – in a liberal pluralist democratic society – a collective approach to emphasising the key benefits of vaccination – against future variants, protecting your loved ones, responsibility to others in education and work – is likely to be more effective than listening to Boris Johnson (untrustworthy) or Colin Whitty (the modelling does not work).
Europe has shown that authoritarian routes to tackle infection rate lead to backlash from parts of the population. We need to be wary of how the general population responds to further restrictions – if the booster is being sold as saving Christmas and New Year then the social contract is no more restrictions please.
The approach of the left is also dangerous and moralistic as argues in Kate Rosenfield argues in Unherd: using the power of the state to punish them for their non-compliance is very much going to affect working class and minority communities it is already becoming disenfranchised from
The approach of closing schools, crippling the private sector, and disenfranchising part of the population are all dangerous. It’s time for a plan that normalises our response.