The UK has made so many mistakes during the pandemic. We started by following the flu pandemic playbook which meant our goal initially was to slow the spread but not eliminate the virus. Something which is too late to do now and perhaps unfeasible anyway. I also realise that no one expected vaccines to become available so quickly but had we known at the outset this may have changed the initial strategy.
Next we discharged elderly patients with covid from hospitals back to care homes, seeding the virus there. We then deliberately chose not to treat patients over 80 so as not to overwhelm our hospitals. At the beginning we were not testing enough and so didn’t know where or how the virus was spreading. Now testing has caught up but we’re running an underperforming test and isolate program. We haven’t been enforcing quarantine for overseas travellers arriving in the country who bring new variants that are spreading through the community. And we’re not adequately supporting low-income workers who need to isolate but who can’t afford not to work. It looks like one of these issues is about to change with hotel quarantine coming in for overseas travellers. We should have done this right from the start and it should extend to travellers from all countries.
When the vaccine was approved I wondered what new blunders would come with the vaccine roll-out. To my surprise so far things have gone smoothly although I have questioned the decision to vaccinate all elderly people first. I agree that all health workers should also be first in line but I feel all key workers should come first including supermarket employees, teachers, police and people who can’t work from home.
This week Germany has advised against giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged over 65 on the basis of insufficient data that it works. If they are right then we’ve wasted a lot of precious vaccine. I do, naturally, hope they are wrong. Now the EU and AstraZeneca are in a row about supply of the vaccine with the EU demanding stock made by a factory in the UK because one of the European factories has had an issue affecting production. I may be biased but I think the UK factory supplying UK vaccine should stay in the UK. If we had a problem at our factory we wouldn’t be demanding the EU factory send us their stocks. The vaccine is the only benefit of Brexit that I have seen so far.
On another topic I listened to a podcast today about a TikTok conspiracy theory that Helen Keller is a fraud. A whole generation of young people think it’s all made up just because of videos on TikTok. How is our education system failing so much that people can watch a TikTok video by a person they’ve never met and believe everything they say no matter how nonsensical? We need to do more to counter misinformation. Young people should question everything (including this blog) and learn to look for academic sources for the information they see and read. If there’s no source then it should be deemed unconvincing until proved otherwise. We need to teach young people to think critically. If you have teenagers then please ask them whether they know who Helen Keller is and what she did. We can all do our bit to stamp out the misinformation.