As the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 continues to increase – it is estimated that 1 in 15 people currently have covid – Johnson has decided that the way to tackle Omicron is to “live with it”. In other words, the UK’s leader is going to do nothing. Again.
This comes as no surprise to those who are aware that Johnson is alleged to have said (in autumn 2020) that he would rather see “bodies pile high”. Omicron is a variant of Covid-19. The UK has now recorded over 150,000 deaths within 28 days of a positive covid test (the actual number of deaths from covid is believed to be much higher). A horrifying 1,295 people died of covid in the last seven days, clearly demonstrating that some of us will not survive Omicron, while a percentage of those who catch it will experience long-term health conditions.
There is also the significant risk that it will lead to more variants which – in simple terms – equates to more deaths, and a risk that new variants may be resistant to the vaccine.
The NHS is overwhelmed
Not only is it socially irresponsible to enable an infectious disease to rip through the population, but it is also weakening the NHS in the process (which in turn facilitates the Conservatives’ destruction of the NHS). Hospitals and care homes are now overwhelmed.
On 5 January 2022, more than 90 care home operators in England declared a red alert because of staff shortages as a result of Covid-19. The Mirror reported “Patients will pay the price for Boris Johnson’s decision to live with Omicron”.
Meanwhile, at least 24 NHS trusts have declared critical incidents and staff had taken to social media to highlight their concerns, which seemed to me to be a cry for help, both for themselves and their patients.
Covid, children, and mental health
With 1 in 15 children (aged 2 to school year 11) estimated to be infected in the week ending 31 December 2021, children returned to schools last week and exposed themselves, and their families, carers and teachers, to an increased risk of spread of Covid-19.
Conservatives advocating for children’s mental health has always struck me as misplaced, and possibly completely fictitious. Child poverty is rising and more than half of black children are growing up in poverty under the Conservatives.
There is an ignorance of the impact on the mental health of NHS staff, carers and teachers (and many others), who are trying to work through the pandemic and being constantly exposed to unnecessary risks.
Worse, there is a complete ignorance of the risk to life and the health of children exposed to Covid-19 by attending schools during a pandemic, especially those which are not ventilated, where social distancing is near impossible and when masks are not mandatory for all.
The vulnerable suffer the most
Guy Marks, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of New South Wales, stated that “Omicron is causing severe consequences in some people, particularly those who are vulnerable”:
However, covid is not solely affecting those it infects, but also those who cannot access – or are delayed in accessing – NHS services during the pandemic. NHS hospitals have been forced to reduce non-covid related services, which leaves patients who need care waiting longer, for example cancer patients. That is why it is essential that the government protects the NHS, to protect the public and patients who need these services.
As a result of Covid-19, people with disabilities have an increased risk of ill health and are more likely to die. Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by Covid-19 In December 2020, the Office for National Statistics reported “Covid-19 mortality for people of Black African or Black Caribbean ethnicity in the first half of this year was two to two and a half times higher than for people of White ethnicity”.
The disproportionate effect on certain groups – including people with pre-existing conditions and the elderly – means that each time the government fails to mitigate the risks (through lockdown, restrictions, mandatory mask-wearing, ventilation, social distancing, and vaccines available to all), they are facilitating a virus that is targeting those groups.
That is inexcusable; the reality is it is discriminatory.