June 21st Must Stand!
The G7 summit in Cornwall this weekend will be an opportunity for President Biden to explain his welcome assertion ‘America is back’. I hope it means a clear break with his predecessor’s ‘America First’ isolationism.
I’m looking for leadership on green issues, getting people vaccinated and progress on fairly taxing big corporations and digital services providers. Here’s hoping.
On June 14th, ministers will make a final decision on their planned lifting of remaining covid restrictions a week later.
Various experts have been urging caution. No surprise there. But away from their data and dashboards, in real life we have had days recently in which more people will have lost their lives in road traffic accidents than from or with covid.
Nevertheless, countries such as Portugal with similar low death rates have been put on the amber list and we are told June ‘hangs in the balance’.
Experts’ main concern is the Indian or Delta variant, particularly in under-vaccinated communities. Fortunately, ours is not one of those – our jab rates are high. The answer to the experts’ concerns is to jab more rather than lock down.
Countries have reacted similarly to the crisis and will be watching each other for how to respond. Given the desperate unintended consequences we’re only now fully appreciating, I hope we don’t accept lockdowns as the automatic go-to intervention at the first sniff of a virus.
The historian Niall Ferguson has recently published Doom, which takes a historical approach to modern catastrophes. He notes the death toll of spring 2020, which, while awful, was lower than the winters of 1969-70, 1975-76 and 1989-90. During those we had no quarantines and lockdowns, or even hands, face, space messaging.
Like England’s Chief Medical Officer, I have been comparing deaths from smoking and covid. 90,000 die each year from tobacco – a huge burden on the NHS, but we tolerate these awful, wholly avoidable, deaths or there would surely have been a ban in the 1950s when the dire consequences of smoking became apparent.
Variants are a feature of viruses. Always have been. But our remarkably successful vaccination programme, the fact that the NHS plainly won’t be overwhelmed and the penalty of pandemic restrictions, including the impact on mental health, mean I will need a shedload of evidence before supporting divergence from the government’s timetable for the easing of lockdown.
In my view, 21 June must stand.