Earlier this year, the UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, informed the British public that the best way to deal with the outbreak of COVID-19 was to build up herd immunity. Understandably, this news was not received well by the public which then resulted in Vallance apologising for this strategy. He had suggested that we can manage the outbreak and build herd immunity by allowing 60% of the British population to be infected. Boris Johnson’s early decision to not follow other European countries in closing schools and banning mass gatherings fueled the development of this strategy.
Certain venues and businesses that have been prohibited since March will open their doors on the 4th July to the British public, with safety measures set in place. Inspired by the UK’s eager anticipation of its 4th of July “Independence Day”, I have been wondering if the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is easing restrictions to secretly build herd immunity.
The possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 was announced last Thursday by the BBC. This virus is expected to surge again in the winter season, and the only way in which this can happen, is if the public stop practising the strict lockdown restrictions that they have adopted since early March.
What does this mean in relation to the 4th of July opening of businesses? Following the announcement of a limited list businesses permitted to open their stores on that day, a concerning revision of the two meter rule has been implemented by Boris Johnson as a one meter plus rule. This reduction in space will mean closer interaction between individuals, increasing the likelihood of infection. The rate of infection can closely mirror one of which the country suffered during the early days of the outbreak.
Following Boris Johnson’s heroic defence for Chief Advisor Dominic Cummings personal dismissal of the safety protocol that he designed, we have to question whether Johnson is working for his country or in favour of his friends. We also need to question if his general failure to protect the UK from this virus was a choice or an inability to perform in his position. In the months of February and March, following his successful election, Boris Johnson was nowhere to be seen when the virus was quickly entering and spreading throughout the country. This created a delayed response to the virus resulting in a high rate of infection and death, with the third highest number of deaths recorded as of June 29th 2020, falling shortly behind the US and Brazil.
Could it be that he saw no urgency in protecting the country and avoiding a rise in the rate of infection and death?
During the early weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, the NHS struggled to manage the high demands for hospital beds, ventilators and PPE. The support from the UK government has been shameful and poor, a systemic flaw with very little help extended to our NHS services. The lack of dedication from the government to the NHS may be a strategy to increase the rate of infection, and ensure that the possibility of herd immunity can deal with the crisis better than our severely underfunded health care system. Contrarily, the NHS debt of £13.4bn was erased by Matt Hancock, despite the Department of Health and Social Care’s loan shark tendencies.
With reports of a travel booking surge late last week, when can we hold the government accountable in its delayed response of closing airports to reduce the rate of infection? Many countries like Ethiopia, Cuba and Angola have shown to implement early strategies of closing airports and enforcing quarantine measures for recent arrivals. The UK government ignored this highly effective method of closing or restricting travel during the early revelation of the virus in the UK. It appeared to be underperforming for a developed nation when compared to the strategies of comparatively underdeveloped countries.
There are exceptions: Leicester is to stay in lockdown, with 944 of cases reported in the last two week. The government has not made strict travel restrictions to and from Leicester, but Matt Hancock has mentioned that talks of a Leicester travel ban are on the table. This slow reaction to limiting and or banning travel is a sign that the government is repeating its initial mistake, one that led this country to lose many of its people. The lack of a travel ban in Leicester is exposing the remaining cities to another outbreak, of which the severity is unclear.
The British public is eagerly waiting for the opening of its favourite bars, pubs, cinemas and other recreational sites of business, but I think this is the perfect time to assess whether the government has been keeping us safe. Should we perceive July 4th as a day of freedom, a day created to save consumerism, or a day that further enforces the herd immunity strategy?
The government has publicly apologised for suggesting the herd immunity strategy, but there are many events and decisions that indicate that this strategy might be privately conducted.
Written by Bethel Haimanot