Having got that out of the way, what do I really mean by an end to the Covid-19 pandemic? Let’s break it down…
1. Allow this virus to become part of the normal pattern of viruses
Remember back in March 2020 when the message was “flatten the curve”? The idea wasn’t to try and eradicate SARS CoV2, but rather contain it to manageable levels so the NHS wasn’t overwhelmed. All of the interventions put in place where about limiting the amount of viral spread YET still allowing it to happen.
It was important to recognise, even then, that the virus SARS CoV2 was here to stay; we were never going to be able to get rid of it.
So why are politicians and their advisors talking like they want to eradicate the virus? Why are we talking about 3rd and 4th boosters with yearly targeted vaccines? This, in my humble opinion, is crazy!
The purpose of the vaccination program was to break the association between infection and severe disease. It is impossible to eradicate an infectious organism transmitted by the respiratory route that can survive on inanimate surfaces and for which a large proportion of those infected are asymptomatic. Respiratory viruses are easy to spread, you may come into contact with a contaminated surface without knowing it, and if someone doesn’t know they have it how will anyone know they have been exposed?!
In the entire history of humanity, we have only managed to eradicate ONE infection… smallpox… and although this was spread by droplets from the respiratory tract, or from infected tissue, people where symptomatic when they were infectious. Therefore it was easy to isolate those infected. AND the population was smaller AND travel was much more restricted back in the 1970s when we finally eradicated the disease. My friend “just knew” he was going to test positive for Covid-19 when he returned home on a aeroplane of coughing and spluttering passengers, and yep he did, and into isolation he went….
We have to accept that Covid-19 is here to stay, and we need to work out how we are going to live with it… we cannot go on like we have for the past 2 years with short term, reflex, knee jerk lockdowns, restrictions and booster jabs.
2. Stop the mandatory self-isolation of contacts
At some stage we need to stop the mandatory self-isolation of contacts of Covid-19 and move to a message of if you are unwell stay at home. This has been the case for years. It’s why we have statutory sick leave and sick pay (although that is very poor provision if you need to rely on it!!). OK, it may not be the most financially lucrative solution for many people, but its purpose is to allow people to stay at home when they are unwell.
The reason I see why the NHS is struggling during this Omicron “wave” is not because vaccinated people are getting really sick, but because healthcare workers are getting exposed and having to isolate for at least a week (14 days, 10 days, 7 days, 5 days… does anyone keep up with these constant changes?!). Almost all of the patients I see now with Covid-19 have something else wrong with them and they “just happen to have Covid-19 as well” e.g. appendicitis with Covid-19, cellulitis with Covid-19, cancer with Covid-19.
OK, YES, if someone continues to work after “an exposure” and are asymptomatic (and they remain well) then they may spread the virus, but I would argue that’s better than all of the current carnage with cancelled care and errors being made because of short staffing. On top of that, the NHS waiting list is now 6 million… and it is just going up and up!
We need to find a way to keep people at work when they are well.
3. Stop doing millions of tests using billions of pieces of throwaway plastic
So, before you say it. The answer to keeping people in work when they are well is NOT doing more lateral flow tests.
Every time I tune into the news, I hear alarming reports of the hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 cases every day and I wonder how useful this really is. I think we have gone beyond these figures helping people understand levels of risk of spread of infection and more to sound bites and alarmist headlines. Some of the more responsible news programs try to at least qualify the figures in terms of hospital admission rates with or because of Covid-19, but the vast majority of these “cases” are positive tests in otherwise well or slightly unwell people. 106,000 new cases is 106,000 more bits of used plastics in our oceans… and to think we used to complain about plastic straws!!
How many millions, if not billions, of lateral flow tests have we done in the UK alone? The most common pieces of litter I see when I’m walking home these days are face masks and lateral flow tests! Where have all the MacDonald’s and KFC wrappers gone?! I am truly concerned about the ecological disaster the pandemic is causing. I wonder how long it will be before James Cameron finds a face mask or lateral flow test at the bottom of the Mariana Trench?
4. Reverse the mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers decision
I understand why patients want their carers to be vaccinated, I really do. I’m vaccinated and I am very much pro-vaccines… BUT I am absolutely against mandatory vaccination. Saying to someone that they have to have a vaccine against their wishes or the career they have worked in for 30 years is over, is just wrong. This is not consent, it is coercion… which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the action of making someone do something that they do not want to do, using force or threatening to use force” (in this case the force is the removal of someone’s job and career).
How would people feel if they were told they must stop “smoking or drinking alcohol or have a BMI <30 or eat a healthy diet” or you won’t have access to NHS health care? These risk factors for ill health have a massive impact on the NHS every year, and obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for severe Covid-19. Would people be happy to have their right to access the NHS taken away?
The other problem I have with mandatory vaccination is that these drugs are intentionally causing a “permanent change” (building an immune response) in the person. They are being given to otherwise well individuals who are not sick therefore having “any adverse event” (long term swelling in joints, muscle pains or ongoing cardiac problems etc.) is significant. The risk of adverse effects to healthy individuals may be higher than any risk from catching Covid-19; they don’t have risk of severe Covid-19 and therefore the question is “what is the correct balance of risk on an individual basis?” I feel that vaccines should ALWAYS be a personal choice, so that the individual can make a judgement about the risk they are comfortable with. AND choice in healthcare should extend to healthcare workers too!
5. A more rational distribution of vaccines
And while we’re on vaccines, let us start using them more rationally. We have got to start vaccinating the World. The number of cases around the World are continuing to rise. If you want just one picture to show you the state of the global pandemic, then look at the graph below. Cases of Covid-19 around the World have been steadily rising since the pandemic began back in 2019. Nothing that has been done (in the UK or the World) has had an impact on these global case numbers, so we need to make sure we break the link between infection and death in ALL countries, not just our own.
We must start distributing vaccines around the World to break the link between infection and death on a global scale. It’s time to stop talking about 3rd and 4th doses in the UK when most people around the World haven’t even had the luxury of 1 dose.
Wow, I don’t want much for 2022, do I? “Just a change in Global Attitude!”
But what do you want? What’s your big wish for the New Year?
Let’s hope it’s a better one than the 2020’s have been so far….