A scientist advising the government has accused ministers of allowing infections to affect the younger population in an effort to boost immunity levels before the NHS faces winter pressures.
The indictment comes after England’s remaining Covid restrictions were eased on Monday, with nightclubs opening their doors for the first time in the pandemic and all rules on social distancing and wearing masks dropped even as infections were up.
Ministers were mindful of scientists’ concerns about nightclubs and other crowded, close-contact, and poorly ventilated venues reopening without testing or other controls in place. Boris Johnson made the surprise announcement on Monday that Covid passports will be required for such setups, but not until late September, two months from now.
“What we are seeing is a government decision to infect as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, while using rhetoric about caution as a way to blame the public for the consequences,” said Professor Robert West. . University College London health psychologist who participates in Sage’s behavioral sciences subgroup.
“It appears that the government judges that the damage to health and health services will be worth the political capital it will get from this approach,” West said, adding that ministers seem to believe the strategy is now sustainable, as opposed to the last year, due to the launch of the vaccine.
A large wave of infections, coupled with mass vaccination, would bring the UK closer to ‘herd immunity’, where enough of the population are resistant to the virus and it no longer spreads. The threshold for herd immunity with the Delta variant is unclear, but scientists estimate that transmission should be blocked in about 85% of the population. Ministers have repeatedly denied that achieving herd immunity by allowing cases to escalate is the government’s goal.
The easing of restrictions on Monday eliminated social distancing, the order of work from home and legal requirements on the use of masks, although ministers asked the public to remain cautious. The move sparked a series of regional mandates to keep masks on public transport, including the London Underground, buses and trains, and Manchester Metrolink trams. Legal limits on indoor mixing were lifted at the same time, allowing all businesses to reopen.
The rule change led to some clubs opening at midnight on Sunday, leading to crowded bars and dance floors across England. Similar scenes in the Netherlands in recent weeks prompted Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to reimpose restrictions on bars, restaurants and nightclubs as new cases increased sevenfold.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said: “Abandoning all precautions and allowing infections to escalate not only risks further restrictions in the future, it dooms thousands of people to long-term illness and puts enormous pressure on the NHS. The rise in Covid admissions is helping to exacerbate the summer NHS crisis, with operations canceled and increasing wait times. It means we are heading into another difficult winter, and high levels of circulating virus could lead to a vaccine-evading variant emerging. This is a completely reckless strategy by Boris Johnson. “
Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the coronavirus in England is now largely an infection among young adults. Cases in people 11 to 16 years old are almost four times more common, and in people 16 to 24 years old almost six times more common than in those 50 to 69 years old. While they are generally at low risk of contracting the disease, young people can still develop Covid for a long time and help fuel the epidemic, increasing cases in those who are most vulnerable.
Professor John Drury, a social psychologist at the University of Sussex, is concerned about the changes that took effect on Monday, such as the removal of the mandate on wearing masks, which “sent a very strong signal” that the Covid crisis now it is less. serious.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Drury, who participates in Sage’s behavioral science subgroup meetings, said recent research showed that people use government policy to make judgments about risk and how to behave. “The general message is that public actions, not only wearing masks, but also distancing and avoiding crowded places, are no longer necessary.”
This has already affected public behavior, he said, although those abandoning Covid precautions appear to be a large minority rather than the majority. “Fortunately, many people are aware of the skyrocketing infection rates and the risk they pose to many people in society, including the most vulnerable, and they continue to wear masks and keep their distance both out of solidarity and self-protection,” Drury said.
A government spokesman said: “Herd immunity has never been part of our pandemic strategy. Our focus has always been to protect the NHS and social care, save lives, and ensure that as many people as possible are vaccinated as we learn to live with Covid-19.
“While the vaccination program has substantially weakened the link between infection and serious illness or death, we have been clear about the need for personal caution as we ease restrictions.
“We are encouraging settings to make use of the NHS Covid pass by requiring a complete vaccination test or a negative test and we reserve the right to require certification if necessary to reduce transmission.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism