We look back at the week’s coronavirus situation in the UK, the battle between the science and politics, the import and export of new variants, the government’s wrong travel advices, the 21 June reopening or not, and more...

First published in June 2021.

Reopening vs variants

Despite repeated calls from some scientists and public health experts (who libertarian politicians such as Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith said “we listen far too much” and “bully government”) to postpone the 21 June reopening, PM Boris Johnson sees “no signal” to scrap or delay it, but called the data “ambiguous”.

Is there really anything ambiguous in what the variant data has been showing for weeks now?

Dr Stephen Griffin, Associate Professor at the School of Medicine of the University of Leeds, doesn’t agree with the prime minister and explained why:

I would be very worried about going ahead with plans to unlock in June. The government has said that it intends the roadmap to be a one way process, and for this reason we are supposed to follow data, not dates, and four tests serve as safeguards to ensure progress is cautious enough not to require backwards steps. The fourth of these tests is that a new variant ought not to provide cause for concern that would change the strategy. It is abundantly clear that this test has not been met at present.

“The variant first detected in India [the Delta variant] entered the UK due to a porous, ineffectual border policy, and the same policy now means we are at risk of exporting it. Cases continue to rise exponentially and it seems spread has not been curtailed within certain hotspots. Also, hospitalisations are rising, with a similar lag time to what we’ve seen too many times before.

I would urge the government to at the very least pause, but ideally review present restrictions in order to put things on line with the vaccination schedule, as was done in Israel. At the very least I would wait until the schools break for summer, and in no way would I recommend that masks, distancing and numbers be changed for indoor mixing.

“We are facing a critical test, we mustn’t make the same mistakes as 2020.”

Should government push back on lifting all legal restrictions on 21 June?
What do experts and health professionals think about the current COVID-19 situation and is the UK entering a third wave?

Holidays abroad and porous borders?

The Home Office published its latest report on air passenger arrivals on 27 May 2021, Statistics relating to passenger arrivals since the COVID-19 outbreak, May 2021, in which it is written that There were 447,300 air passenger arrivals to the UK in April 2021. This is four times (298%) higher than the total number of air arrivals for April 2020, immediately following the start of the first UK lockdown, when there were 112,300 arrivals.”

Statistics relating to passenger arrivals since the COVID-19 outbreak, May 2021. | Home Office

One surely has to ask the question, why?

Why has this chaos been allowed?

Air passenger arrivals data tables.

Can the government explain how these air passenger arrivals have affected the potential import of new variants into the UK and the potential export of dangerous variants abroad?

It is obvious now that the government has missed early warnings... once again. They left the borders open to imports, allowed British citizens to travel to amber countries (while, at the same time, telling them not to), still insists on only a 10-day quarantine, and created a sense, among many, that the vaccines had won the war against COVID-19. They created a false sense of security. If vaccination does appear to be making an impact on the spread of the virus, it is not the only solution. The Delta variant proved this government wrong again and again.

Taking Portugal off the Green List was, after all, the least they could do, unless the UK wanted to be responsible for spreading the Delta variant in Europe, and further – a repeat of what happened at the end of 2020 with the Alpha Kent variant. But there is still so much that could be done to stop the current spread of the virus in the UK and abroad.


Can the government’s exit from its own exit from lockdown roadmap?

And as another ‘Week in Covid-19’ draws to an end, more voices of concern are being heard regarding the apparent rise in virus infections – a rise which many scientists are concerned it could signal the beginning of a new Covid-19 wave in the UK.

The government’s exit from lockdown roadmap is due to enter Step 4 on 21 June, subject to the data. Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeated his view on Wednesday that while we need to review the data carefully, nothing yet suggested that any change was required.

The Guardian

No sign? Really?

As Professor Stephen Reicher, Professor of Psychology at the University of St Andrews, and a member of the SAGE subcommittee advising on behavioural science, tweeted on Wednesday:

What sort of sign does he want? The Thames turned to blood? A plague of frogs? Writing on the wall that spells out ‘we are all doomed if you don’t stop your dithering’? But seriously, what sort of sign does he want?

All will be revealed on 14 June, but with a warning from a growing number of respected scientists that full reopening on 21 June could lead to a very worrying surge in cases, hospitalisations, and deaths.

The decision now rests with the prime minister. One has to wonder whether he will listen to the advice of scientists and health professionals, or bow to Libertarians Minions in his own party who want the relaxation of restrictions to take place at all costs on 21 June. 

Going further:

Dr Joe Pajak, professional experience scientific research and development, principal of a community college, director of education, then director of a national children’s charity, trustee of a disability charity, and governor of an NHS foundation trust hospital.
J.N. PAQUET, Author & Journalist, Editor of PMP Magazine.

[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 4 June 2021. | The authors write in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Flickr/Number 10. - PM Boris Johnson. | 3 June 2021. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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