Freedom arrives – perhaps

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Should we bin it?

Freedom Day, when almost all Covid-19 restrictions are removed, having been postponed from the original midsummer’s day date, will finally arrive on July 19. When the first date was postponed, due partly to the appearance of the new Delta (or India) variant, much of the media and opposition together with a few government MPs and supporters were quick to condemn the decision. Now that July 19 has been confirmed as the new date, the media, predictably, has been full of many of the same voices condemning this date for being too soon.

It seems that we are actually enjoying the idea of lockdown, the sensation of being scared of release – a variant (since variants are in fashion) perhaps, of Stockholm Syndrome when the captured take the side of their captors.

But should we be scared of release?

The government’s position is that the link between infection followed by hospitalisation and, in some cases, death has been largely broken. Although infections are rising, hospital admissions are going up only slowly with many hospitals still having no Covid-19 patients. Deaths of those who have had a positive Covid-19 test within the previous 28 days are remaining relatively stable. Moreover, there are concerns that a further wave could hit in the autumn/winter and if release did not happen now, we could find ourselves in lockdown until next spring and the continued damage that this could cause to employment, the economy and our mental and physical health would be enormous. We must remember, too, that the intention is to have given all adults the opportunity of being vaccinated by the end of September.

The young, we know, do not suffer to the same extent as their elders and with the success of the vaccination program it would seem that my suggestion in an earlier article that virus “will have nowhere to go” before long is not an unreasonable one.

Of course, there will always be a small proportion of those who have been vaccinated who will still get Covid-19, but it has been demonstrated that even in these cases the effect of the virus is much reduced. A classic recent example of this was BBC presenter Andrew Marr who, despite vaccination, caught the virus and although he said it was unpleasant, he missed just one of his shows and was back, fully recovered, by the the next one, just a week later.

Infections nationally are certainly on the rise. In Rother the latest figure (July 6) is 121 per 100,000 people. This represents a small rise from the previous week, although still only half the national average for England.

The government is leaving it up to us to decide on our own actions, so do we need to wear masks still, can we safely go into shops and pubs? Some will undoubtedly feel more comfortable continuing with masks and there is certainly an argument for continuing them in enclosed crowded areas – for example public transport at busy times – or to give confidence to those who might feel particularly vulnerable. But it has been shown that masks, at best, are only marginally useful and then only in protecting other people from you, rather than protecting you from other people.

Thanks to the miracle of modern science, we can learn to live with Covid-19, just as we live with flu (and the seasonal epidemic of flu produces far more victims than we are currently seeing with Covid-19), the common cold and other everyday viruses.

Wear a mask, if you feel you must, keep your distance, if you feel you must, isolate if you feel you must. If you need to, take the same precautions as you would against seasonal flu. We need not be afraid to go back to “normal”. “Project fear” has been inflicted on us for the last eighteen months, there is no reason now not to reclaim our lives.

For me, on July 19 my mask is going in the bin and I am off to my favourite local to stand at the bar, once more, meet friends and order a pint.

Image Credits: John Minter .

10 COMMENTS

  1. One has to wonder about the equating of the slight inconvenience of wearing a mask in public with some unexamined view of “freedom.” Do we not have an obligation to keep the greater community free of disease and death?

  2. John,

    I can fully appreciate your desire to return to some semblance of normality.

    Unfortunately, like most things in life, it’s not that straightforward, and I suspect those with parents, relatives or children who are imunosuppressed won’t feel so bullish right now.

    The ‘condemnatory voices’ you mention are indeed numerous, and personally, I cannot understand why all restrictions are slated to be dispensed with. It appears to be a dogmatic political decision, not one based on science, sense or compassion. It’s very much in the spirit of ‘every man for himself.’

    One example of the concern evident since the Government began to signal intent was in the venerable peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet. This week it published an article entitled, “Mass Infection Is Not An Answer”

    https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)01589-0/fulltext

    The journal can fairly be described as the voice of the British medical establishment. Here’s a quote from their introduction re the wholesale abandonment of anti-viral precautions:

    “Implicit in this decision is the acceptance that infections will surge, but that this does not matter because vaccines have “broken the link between infection and mortality”.1 On July 19, 2021—branded as Freedom Day—almost all restrictions are set to end. We believe this decision is dangerous and premature.”

    I urge anyone to read the article for counterpoint to John’s opinion.

    We are all tired of not being able to live as we did. But the science isn’t fraudulent. The deaths are not fantasy. ‘Long Covid’ is an established reality. Thirty-five percent of the population has not had a second jab, and apparently 1/5 may still contract Covid despite having been fully vaccinated. Half a million people in the UK are immunosuppressed. Moreover, as long as the virus is at large within the community, there’s continued risk of mutation – ie, another ‘Delta Variant’.

    All these facts provide a very sound reason NOT to bin your mask on the 19th.

    As a community, I think we should be looking out for each other until we’re all double vaccinated and until cases and hospitalisation are falling, not rising, as they are now.

    Masks are worn to protect others. Wearing a mask indoors or in crowded places after the 19th signals, ‘I give a damn about those around me.’ Not wearing one declares the opposite.

  3. John appears not to be aware of the differential effect of age on the effectiveness of vaccination.
    A recent report regarding the work of David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters contained the following information:
    “But the risk of dying from Covid-19 is extraordinarily dependent on age: it halves for each six to seven year age gap. This means that someone aged 80 who is fully vaccinated essentially takes on the risk of an unvaccinated person of around 50 – much lower, but still not nothing, and so we can expect some deaths.”
    I will not be parting company with my mask for the foreseeable future.

  4. So John Minter thinks that “Project fear” has been “inflicted on us” for eighteen months.  I reckon most people think it was “Project sense, caution, responsibility and care for our fellow human beings”. And that, together with the brilliance and hard work of the scientists who developed the vaccines, is the very reason that so many of us are fortunate enough to be able to “reclaim our lives”.

  5. I think John will find the Delta Variant is now generally referred to (at least on Twitter!) as the Johnson Variant, following his decision to allow hundreds of unchecked flights from India into Heathrow. Worth noting that the the UK now has more cases than the entire European Union.

  6. Well said indeed, GH!
    Neither will I be parting company with my mask, not for a long time ! It would be totally selfish of us to ditch our masks , which are worn principally to protect others.
    Besides, on a cold ,breezy day they are quite a comfort to the wearer!!

  7. Totally agree with you GH.
    Great and informative response.
    I will be wearing a mask until I feel it’s safe enough not to.

  8. Yes, we’re not out of the woods yet, no matter what Boris et al would imply. This wasn’t exactly vaccination thread, but for those sceptical about the necessity of anti-viral measures or the impact of the virus itself, it’s also worth noting emerging research that suggests there may be a link between Covid and reduced male fertility. Vaccination has been found not to impact fertility however. So, if you’re a young man, there’s another good reason to get vaccinated…

  9. The notion of ‘freedom’ equated to not wearing a mask appears a bit strange to me? I have heard it before from those Southern American states that seemed to like old Donny Trump so much: still, everyone free to opinions.

    The author of the article appears to forget that wearing a mask is fo the benefit of others – possibly the poor young bar staff (who will not of been fully vaccinated) having to serve him and his friends.

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