About 50,000 infected with coronavirus every day, and an average of 180 deaths – on Tuesday, 233: the highest number since last March. The medical community calls on the Government of Boris Johnson to react now, if it wants to avoid a bleak winter in the UK. Downing Street, for now, is still betting that things will get better in a few weeks.
It is a daily exercise that only leads to frustration: calculating the percentage of users of the London Underground or city buses wearing a mask. They are barely 50%. When, last July, Boris Johnson officially proclaimed the “day of freedom” and lifted all social restrictions of confinement, more than one put their hands to the head. Like the Labor mayor of the capital, Sadiq Khan, in charge of looking after the health and economy of 13 million souls. Transport For London (TfL), the public entity that manages public transport in the city, maintained the mandatory nature of masks. But he never obtained legal reinforcement from the Government. Failure to comply with the measure does not carry a fine or sanction. Simply, TfL reserves the right of admission for those who violate the rule. Is it reasonable to transfer to a driver at the wheel the responsibility of controlling such a diverse fauna as the London one? The answer is obvious when boarding a metro or a bus in the metropolis.
When Downing Street decided to shelve the nightmare of the pandemic, the Prime Minister’s team wanted to make it clear to citizens that he had a “plan B”. Something basic, from the standards of other European capitals. Masks for closed areas and places with a high concentration of people, a certain social distance in day-to-day life and the possibility of teleworking wherever possible. Nothing drastic. The usual thing even does nothing in capitals like Madrid or Rome, but something already forgotten in the United Kingdom. Up to now. The medical community begins to be alarmed by the numbers of infected, hospitalized and dead. And he has raised the tone against the Johnson administration. Chaand Nagpaul, the president of the British Medical Association (AMB), laments: “They said they would put in place a plan B to prevent the National Health Service (NHS) from becoming saturated again. As doctors who are working in the front line of combat, we can tell you categorically that that moment has come. “
Director of Health Service Journal (the publication that handles the most rigorous data and statistical analysis of the British public health), Alastair McLellan, warned this Wednesday that the seven regions of England are currently registering an increase in the number of patients hospitalized for covid-19. From 39% more patients in the southeast of the country to 15% more in the London region. Dr. Nagpaul noted: “The Government has lifted its foot on the brake, and it seems that the pandemic is definitely behind us and that life has returned to normal. The reality, however, is that the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths is unacceptable ”.
The new Minister of Health, Sajid Javid, who joined his post at the end of June, inherited an exit situation in which the success of the vaccination campaign predicted a near end to the nightmare. His political message, in taking over the reins of the department, was that the UK would not return to a new lockdown. Freedom and economic recovery should prevail over fear and caution. Javid now carries a problematic backpack, because the British public have come to believe his words. That is why this Wednesday, when he appeared again before the cameras at a press conference devoted entirely to the coronavirus, he opted for a more somber tone and transferred to the population the responsibility of avoiding a return to the restrictions: “We all have a role to play. . This pandemic is not over yet ”, he warned. “If the people who have been selected do not come for their third booster dose [de la vacuna], or if people do not wear masks in places crowded with strangers, or if they do not wash their hands regularly …, all this will end up hitting us all, “said Javid, who predicted the possibility that the number of infections daily reach 100,000 during the winter.
Three factors have conditioned or altered the Johnson Administration’s calculations. Scientific evidence indicates that the effectiveness of vaccines is declining faster than anticipated. At least four and a half million people – elderly and vulnerable – should have already received their third booster dose. Only two million have gone to the health center to do so. A blame-attribution war has begun to erupt between Downing Street and the NHS over the slowdown in vaccinations. 79% of the population over 12 years of age has received the complete immunological regimen (two doses), that is, 67.6% of all inhabitants (in Spain, for example, the figure reaches 78%). But the widespread sense of a battle won has caused the guard to be lowered. Second factor: economic supply problems – queues at gas stations, empty shelves in supermarkets … – have caused the Johnson administration to focus on the economic front and sideline the health threat. That, combined with the challenge of carrying out COP26, the climate summit to be held in Glasgow in early November, has forced any decision to impose new social restrictions to be put in a drawer. Finally, the number of infections among the 12 to 16-year-old population has skyrocketed. The Government was slow to make the decision to vaccinate this segment of the population, and the return to schools has accelerated the transmission of the virus. The break next week ―the so-called half term, the quarterly holidays – may bring some relief in the number of infections, but it will be very temporary. Unlike what happens in Spain, in England and Wales the use of the mask is not compulsory in educational centers. In Scotland, on the other hand, yes.
The situation, as familiar as it may be – it would be the third time Downing Street has reacted late and badly – has taken an entire country by surprise, convinced that the worst was behind us. Not even the Labor opposition is capable of proposing concrete response measures – as when it demanded a faster and longer confinement – and is limited to reproaching the Government for a miscalculation. Jonathan Ashworth, his spokesman for Health, laments: “The plain and simple truth is that the so-called defense wall that we had supposedly built with vaccines has begun to crumble.” The Johnson Administration is confident that this wall, in its accelerated attempt to reinforce it with third doses of vaccine and new acquired antiviral treatments, will hold out. And not having to impose the use of masks indoors.
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