To read Dr Fox's latest piece for The Sun, go to the following link: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/14059724/covid-here-to-stay-but-lockdown-isnt/
Whatever our view of politics and the pandemic there is one thing we can agree on — we all dislike the lockdown. Who would have thought that a walk or a hug or a beer with those we love would be a luxury we would aspire to. So the speed at which we are able to return to our normal lives will depend on the speed at which the lockdown is lifted. This is a decision that ministers will be taking during this week’s Parliamentary recess.
The Prime Minister was right to stand up to the Covid-19 deniers, the crazy anti-vaxxers and the extreme lockdown sceptics. It was wise and proper to ensure that evidence was the decisive factor in making the complex decisions about balancing public health with the need to keep the economy moving to avoid people losing their jobs. The strategic objective was clear, to stop the NHS being overwhelmed with patients being unable to access life-saving treatment in 21st- Century Britain. The human, not to mention political, cost of failure would have been unforgivable. But this national goal has been met, with our exceptional NHS staff coping valiantly with two peaks of the disease, albeit supported by different levels of lockdown at different times.
Now we have the spectacular success of the vaccine programme. The Prime Minister has been vindicated in his decision to ignore those who wanted no lockdown or restrictions whatsoever or wanted them lifted before the evidence was there to justify the decision. That would have been foolish. But it would also be foolish to continue lockdown when the threat of overwhelming the NHS recedes as the vaccine programme begins to take effect and infection rates fall. Every death is a tragedy and we have all seen the grief and pain it causes for the friends and family of each victim. While it will offer little comfort to those who have lost a loved one, it is worth remembering that only around seven per cent of total deaths have occurred in those under 60 years of age. Around 35 per cent of admissions have occurred in the under 65s. As more and more of our older citizens are vaccinated, it is likely that they will be a smaller proportion of the total number of new infections. So when we are told that younger patients are making up a higher proportion of hospital admissions, that is exactly what is to be expected in a successful vaccination programme.
In making its future decisions the Government will have to remember that, beyond the threat of overwhelming the NHS, the medical profession and the country’s political leadership will not have exactly the same objectives. It is understandable that some of the Government’s medical advisers will want to continue with the lockdown to see lower and lower infection rates, even with the vaccine programme in place. It would be wrong to shift strategic objectives in this direction. The Government should not allow the goalposts to be moved because it has wider considerations than simply the infection rate. They must get our children back to school and get the businesses that generate the money on which our public services depend functioning again. With all due respect to my medical colleagues who advise the Government, they do not face the sort of job insecurity that those running our small businesses do. Nor, as the pandemic subsides, can Covid-19 be allowed to dominate the running of the NHS as it has understandably done over the past year. Patients on waiting lists, those with chronic health conditions and those with cancer need to be given due priority. The NHS must shift back to more normal functioning as soon as possible.
The Covid-19 pandemic is not likely to be the “once in a generation” event some like to portray. This is, in fact, the third coronavirus outbreak in the past 20 years with (SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2013). Even if we gain the upper hand through our vaccine programme, the virus will continue to spread elsewhere, and as it does so it will continue to mutate and produce new variants. The UK is well placed to lead with the international vaccine efforts that will be required to shorten and minimise this process. It is a great opportunity to show Global Britain in practice. But we will never get to a zero Covid-19 position and those who push policy in that direction will cause more harm than good. There are those who find the idea of having to live with coronavirus daunting, even frightening. Yet we have learned to live with a number of other viral illnesses, including seasonal influenza, which claims thousands of lives every year and, occasionally, millions worldwide. A balanced approach to risk and understanding the tools we have now created to deal with such a situation should help diminish public anxiety.
The virus may be here to stay. Let’s make sure the lockdown isn’t.