Opinion: UK is right to lock down – we CANNOT allow hospitals to be swamped

Bury St Edmunds on the first day of the second lockdown. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Bury St Edmunds on the first day of the second lockdown. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Andrew Papworth writes that the UK is right to go into a national lockdown - what do you think?

There can be no-one in the country who wants to be part of a locked down society.

We all want the freedom to go out as we choose, see who we want to and go about our normal daily lives.

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For many of us, such freedom is critical to our livelihoods.

Even in the modern technological age, people not only need to be able to move freely to do their jobs, but need others to as well. It is the very means by which so many pick up trade.

We should be under no illusions that the latest set of restrictions will cause hardship for many. Some may feel the economic impacts more than the virus itself.

Yet, in my view, a national lockdown regrettably ended up being inevitable.

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The government was clearly keen to avoid another such a draconian course of action.

Prime minister Boris Johnson had previously called it a last resort and had tried to make a three-tier local lockdown system work.

The move feels particularly harsh for Norfolk and Suffolk, where coronavirus infection rates remained low.

That is at least in part because people have been careful and diligent about sticking to the government guidelines. Together with the rest of the country, they have truly rallied round in a time of crisis.

For me though, the most important factor is the risk of hospitals being overwhelmed by patients as cases of coronavirus – and possibly seasonal flu – continue to soar.

Again, this is tough on East Anglia, where there had been no sign emergency or intensive care units are struggling to cope with demand.

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Yet even in non-Covid times, hospitals have struggled to meet waiting time targets because of sheer volume of patients they have to deal with in winter.

The great danger is that if hospitals do become overwhelmed with Covid patients, there would be less room to treat all patients.

The consequences of that don’t bear thinking about.

Imagine loved ones suffering a heart attack, stroke or other serious condition and arriving at a hospital so overwhelmed that simply not everyone can be treated.

There’s no doubt our highly skilled nurses and doctors, who have been heroic during the crisis, would do their very best.

However, a scenario where there are not enough beds for everyone would mean a crisis where everyone who falls ill is put at greater risk – not just those with coronavirus.

In no way should that minimise the huge consequences of the lockdown, which will cause serious economic difficulty and bring health problems of its own.

It is the least worst of a very bad list of options. Quite simply, it’s needed to save lives.

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