BuDS’ Response to the Government’s ‘Plan B’ Announcement

The Secretary of State for Health, Sajid Javid, has made a statement about the Government’s Covid-19 policy. Here are the key points.

Remember, whatever the Government do, you are in control of your own safety. BuDS is here to help you keep yourself and your loved ones safe. This is quite a depressing and upsetting article: please be careful of your mental health and contact us or another support service if you need to.


 

COVID-19 OUT OF CONTROL, BUT GOVERNMENT NOT TAKING ANY ACTION

The Government do not deny that the number of infected people is very high and increasing rapidly. In fact, they predicted that over the winter, there could be one hundred thousand new infections PER DAY in England. This would be more than twice the current level. The head of the new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that there was no sign of the rise in the number of infected people peaking and starting to go down.

Today, there were 49,139 new infections in England, 7,891 hospitalisations, and 179 deaths. The Health Secretary called 179 deaths in a single day (954 in the last 7 days) “mercifully low”, although the head of the UKHSA called it “a very high death toll”.

If infections rise to 100,000 per day, then realistically we could see 16,000 people taken into hospital and 360 people dying EVERY DAY. That would mean 112,000 hospitalisations and 2,520 deaths EVERY WEEK. While it is difficult to make accurate estimates, this would result in at least 120,000 deaths in England in 2021 on top of the 72,500 deaths in 2020 – nearly 200,000 deaths (using 28 day fatality totals). By comparison, Germany has had 94,500 deaths in total so far.

Despite this extraordinarily bleak outlook, the Government confirmed that they do not intend to introduce ANY additional Covid-19 precautions such as social distancing and compulsory mask wearing in indoor places. So, the ‘Plan B’ option to bring back the precautions we had before “Freedom Day” in July will NOT be triggered. All the evidence shows that these precautions would cut the number of infected people and save many thousands of people from serious illness and death. But the Government have taken the view that it is “the right decision to start to learn to live with the virus”, and that the ‘freedoms people have to live normally’ need to be protected.

The clear message that the Government gave today was that they are content for very large numbers of people to be seriously ill with Covid-19 and to die of Covid-19, rather than making any effort to save people’s lives and health which would ‘interfere with the freedom to live normally’.


 

NEW VARIANT CONFIRMED

The Government confirmed that a ‘sub-variant’ of the Delta variant, AY4.2, is now spreading quickly in the UK. Although the Government said that there was ‘no proof that it poses a greater threat’, scientific analysis suggests that the new AY4.2 sub-variant could be 10-15% more infectious than Delta. This means AY4.2 can spread between people even easier and faster than Delta, accelerating the number of infections across the UK. Most people would think that a more infectious variant is a greater threat, but the Government clearly disagree.


 

NHS CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS?

The Government said that the NHS is apparently ‘performing well’ at the moment, and that it is not under “unsustainable” pressure. At the briefing, it was confirmed that there had been a 10.3% increase in the last week of people going into hospital with Covid-19, and that this increase was likely to continue.

The heads of both NHS provider organisations (who run the hospitals and services) today said that the NHS was heading for a crisis, and urged the Government to bring back precautions to cut the spread of Covid-19. Also, this week the NHS in England was confirmed to have 98% of its hospital beds full, and ambulance trusts reported that every ambulance service in England had declared an emergency.

The clear message that the Government gave today was that they are prepared for the NHS to go to the very brink of complete collapse before they are prepared to take any action. They also prefer normal NHS activity like cancer treatment, operations etc to be cancelled and delayed because of Covid-19 rather than bring back Covid-19 precautions.


 

THE ‘VACCINATION RACE’

The Government said that England is in a “race” ‘between the vaccine and the virus’, and that ‘we are currently ahead’ in the race. By this, they seem to mean that vaccination is happening faster than infections and that, if vaccination can only be done quick enough, the pandemic will die out because enough people will be vaccinated to stop the virus spreading. They urged everyone to ‘get their jab to keep their freedoms’.

Today (20 October), 45.4 million people in the UK have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. That is just over two-thirds of the population (68.8%) and means 20.6 million people are not yet fully protected. Also, the protection given by vaccines wears off quickly – after 5 months, your protection against death or serious illness is half what it was when you got your second dose. This means that around 22 million people who were vaccinated more than 5 months ago are now at much higher risk from Covid-19. These 22 million people all need a booster jab, but only 4 million have had one so far.

The Government announced some ideas to speed up vaccination, including opening the National Booking Service to young people aged 12-15. However, it is very doubtful whether these ideas will be able to reduce the number of people going into hospital and dying. For the Government to ‘win the race’, not only would they need to finish vaccinating a third of the population, but also give booster doses to the whole of the population on a rolling annual basis.

What this means is that, on the scientific data, the UK CANNOT be said to be ‘winning the race’ against the virus. Vaccination and booster doses are happening much too slowly and, as a result, the number of people going into hospital and dying is extremely high. But, as the Government feel they are ‘winning the race’, this must mean that they feel the vaccination program is fast enough, despite high number of serious illnesses and deaths.


 

BETTER TREATMENT FOR PEOPLE WITH COVID-19?

The Government announced that they had purchased 730,000 doses of two unproven antiviral drugs to help treat Covid-19 patients. However, these medicines have not yet even been approved for use in the UK, and the number of doses available is much smaller than the predicted number of patients. The announcement of this purchase seems to be more of a publicity stunt.


 

‘SOLVE THE PROBLEM YOURSELF’, SAYS GOVERNMENT

The Government, while refusing to introduce any legal precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19, nevertheless urged everyone to voluntarily follow those same precautions. This message was completely at odds with the Government’s action to encourage people to NOT observe those precautions, for example encouraging a return to crowded offices and events without face coverings. Another good example is that there were no Covid-19 precautions at the recent party conference, and Government MPs do not take precautions in the House of Commons.

It is very hard to take seriously the Government’s plea that people follow Covid-19 guidance when they do not follow it themselves and their policy is against people following guidance. However, it does enable the Government to blame people for the Covid-19 crisis, rather than themselves.


 

WHAT DOES BUDS THINK?

The Government announcements today are barely believable. It is obvious that Covid-19 is out of control, that the NHS is in acute crisis, and the death toll speaks for itself. For the Government to deny that action is needed is extraordinary.

BuDS believes that the first duty of Government is to protect the people. To trade off the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people against fictional ‘freedoms’ is crass and contemptible. Everyone knows that the Government fears losing a vote in the House of Commons about Covid-19 precautions because so many of its backbenchers are extremist libertarians. To cling to political power at the expense of the lives and health of the population is cowardly and, in our opinion, ought to be classed as a crime against humanity.

What is really obvious is that disabled, older and clinically vulnerable people cannot expect the Government to look after their interests, and that they must do so themselves. BuDS’ message for many months has been for people to take charge of their own safety, and today’s announcement has confirmed how right we were.


 

WE ARE HERE TO HELP (UNLIKE THE GOVERNMENT)

If you need advice on how to keep yourself safe, or any other form of help or support, or you’re anxious about Covid-19, BuDS is here for you. Please e-mail buds-support@buds.org.uk, call 01494 211179 (voicemail) or message us and we’ll do all we can to help.

If you are feeling upset or depressed by this article, our BuDDies service is here if you need someone to talk to. To find out more about this, visit https://buds.org.uk/category/our-work/iag-buddies/.

Our Fair4All Card can help you keep yourself safer in the pandemic if you are clinically vulnerable. Visit www.fair4all.org.uk for more information.