There could be 15,000 unnecessary Covid deaths by January – and Boris Johnson will blame you | Sean O’Grady

There could be 15,000 unnecessary Covid deaths by January – and Boris Johnson will blame you | Sean O’Grady
Whenever we’ve relaxed restrictions prematurely it’s said that the public didn’t obey the guidance – so it’s your own fault

How many avoidable deaths from Covid will there be by, say, the end of winter? Professor Neil Ferguson, an expert, says 50 a day, based on Sajid Javid’s candid admission that we can all look forward to 100,000 Covid cases per day in the near future.

The big difference, the game changer, is the vaccines, which reduce the death rate, Javid claims. True enough, provided you’ve had two jabs. But many younger people have not, and the herd immunity level across the population is still months away. The protective “wall” Javid describes hasn’t been finished. That’s the point. That’s why the government is going to let the bodies pile high rather than retain the rules a little longer – and we know Johnson once said exactly that.

With 100,000 cases per day at foreseeable vaccination levels, that would be about 15,000 dead unnecessarily by January, plus more suffering from the various debilitating long Covid syndromes, for how long no one yet knows. The casualty toll could be higher. It might be lower. But there is one thing that we can be sure of: Boris Johnson and his government will refuse to take responsibility for it.

We know this because, first, that has sadly been the pattern of the past. Whenever we’ve relaxed restrictions prematurely it’s said that the public didn’t obey the guidance – so it’s your own fault. We also know the new mantra of “taking personal responsibility” very well, and the vague, mixed messages that accompany it. Ministers are careful not to say “just do what you want”, because that would mean they couldn’t lay the blame for collapsing the NHS on a public that failed to take their personal responsibilities seriously. “It’s your funeral,” is the message, and sadly it will be, all too literally for some.

The myth being propagated is that “we must live with Covid” because “zero Covid” cannot be achieved, and however many deaths occur, well, that is just the way it is, or else it’s the fault of the public for neglecting personal responsibility. Wrong. If “zero Covid” is now unreachable, there is still a collective and individual duty to a minimise avoidable deaths.

That duty is what is now being abandoned, collectively and individually. That is serious. Lives will be lost, needlessly, and long Covid may mean long term, avoidable disability.

As for the issues of mental stress, domestic abuse, non Covid backlogs and educational disruption – all are real and costly but, actually, lockdown substantially ended some weeks ago. We’re talking here about a delay while vaccination completes plus mitigating measures to protect ourselves but also those – for example, bus drivers (like Javid’s old dad) – who are exposed to the virus.

Yet the government won’t even try to protect them. We don’t allow people to smoke on buses or trains any longer, so why allow them to exhale Covid without restraint? Some in shops and public transport will certainly pass away as a result of this reckless move. “Personal responsibility”, or lack of it by others, is the answer minsters offer. They should put that on the death certificates.

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