As we all gear up to another Monday morning, at the back of all our minds will be the thought of facing another lockdown. Poor Boris, despite all of his strenuous efforts including localisation of prevention and the so-called tier system he has had to succumb to the advice of the medical experts. It seems to me that the only advice on the table is a merry-go-round of restriction. At the heart of all the advice from the beginning of the pandemic is the protection of the NHS at all costs. To rely on restriction buys time but it is no substitute for a plan to gain control of the virus. Eminent people are beginning to ask the question is there another way?
The lockdown merry-go-round
Looking back on the first lockdown, what did it achieve? True, it brought down the rate of infection, but at what cost. Countless numbers of businesses have gone to the wall with millions of people losing their jobs. The Furlough Scheme and other financial support has cost billions, leaving the country in debt for the next decade.
In the health care sector, the focus on Covid-19 has delayed urgent treatments to such a degree that it is estimated to have cost more lives than those lost from covid itself. This does not take into account the long-term impact on people’s mental health.
In the first lockdown we all appreciated the sterling service provided by the staff of the NHS. We all clapped, we banged the drum and we saw many practical examples of community spirit which brought us all together. A lot has happened since then. The Dominic Cummings affair was pivotal in bringing about change in the minds of the general public. His behaviour along with that of other ministers inculcated a feeling of nausea among the population, one law for them and one for us.
The testing shambles hasn’t helped either. The testing regime does not produce effective results. Large numbers of people are identified as positive among people who are not infectious. The results make no distinction between a teenager than someone who is 75 years old.
We still do not have an effective track and trace system, and who’s to blame those who have tested positive refusing to self-isolate when their livelihood is at stake. The second lockdown will not be as effective as the first. People are suffering from covid fatigue and are now much more likely to break restrictive rules.
An alternative plan
Dr Tom Jefferson and Professor Carl Heneghan writing in the Sunday Mail offer a glimmer of hope. They suggest a strategy to address the four key failings of the Governments current strategy. Addressing the problems of the Governments mass testing programme; tackling the blight of confused and contradictory statistics; protect and isolate the most vulnerable and inform the public of the true and quantifiable cost of lockdown.
We must stop relying on yes/no test results and start looking at peoples age and symptoms. We should target tests with those who really need them.
Protecting the vulnerable is the key to living with the virus, while retaining some semblance of living a normal life. As we all know we failed to protect the old and sick during the first lockdown and we are in danger of doing it again, even though this could be the most effective measure available to us.
It is people who are aged over 85 and those who are already unwell that account for the vast majority of deaths. We should increase staff in care homes and set up specialist clinical teams with CQC registration to support them and we should prevent staff from moving between care homes.
We cannot continue with a lockdown strategy until a vaccine is found for the virus. The Government must use the time gained from the second lockdown to come up with a change in strategy. Covid-19 is a virus that predominately attacks the old and others with health threatening conditions. Dr Tom Jefferson and Professor Carl Heneghan offer an alternative that focuses resources on the most vulnerable. Given the numbers of people who died in social care during the first wave of the virus, I believe it is a strategy worth pursuing.
Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy