Whether it's Plan A or B, something must be done about rising Covid rates

Health Secretary Sajid Javid alongside Chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency Dr Jenny Har

Health Secretary Sajid Javid alongside Chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency Dr Jenny Harries, during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Tuesday October 19, 2021. - Credit: PA

History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce — or so the saying goes.

And moving into this winter, the government's handling of the pandemic is beginning to look farcical.

Throughout the pandemic, public health experts have urged the government to be proactive, rather than be reactive.

In March 2020 the government reacted slowly because it did not yet fully understand the pandemic it was dealing with. 

Then, that autumn, the government was repeatedly told to bring in a firebreak lockdown.

It dragged its feet again.

By the time the November lockdown was brought in, it was too late — leading to the darkest period of the pandemic so far in January this year.

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Last month, Patrick Vallance said it was important "go hard and go early" if cases started to surge.

They have definitely started to surge.

Government statistics show 52,009 people tested positive yesterday, while the true number of people with the virus is thought to already be close to 100,000.

On Wednesday, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents healthcare organisations, reiterated his point saying: “The message from health leaders is clear — it is better to act now rather than regret it later.”

Other people are calling for the government to pull the lever on its 'Plan B' of reinstituting some restrictions.

These messages are again appearing to fall on deaf ears.

Boris Johnson has continued to resist calls for tighter Covid restrictions despite the rising levels of infections.

He acknowledged the numbers were “high” but said they were “within the parameters” forecast by scientists advising the government.

In the first Downing Street press conference for a long time, health secretary Sajid Javid said coronavirus deaths "remain mercifully low" at the moment.

According to the government's own coronavirus data dashboard, in the seven days to yesterday, 912 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.

Nearly 1,000 families have lost loved ones to Covid in the past week alone.

Surely they would not describe the number of deaths as "mercifully low".

Graphs comparing the infection rates in countries across Europe show cases in most countries peaking at around the same time in the middle of summer, before falling. 

Except cases in one country don't fall for very long. In the UK cases fell slightly before going up, and then up again.

This has been attributed to the lack of a mask mandate, vaccines losing their efficacy after the UK's speedy rollout earlier this year and even a new variant of Covid.

The truth is probably a mixture of all three.

But the government's current plan is to solve one of these problems by rolling out vaccine boosters and hope that is enough.

The flaw with this plan is in the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine booster. The initial roll out was exemplary, but this has not been.

Government websites directing people where to get their boosters have been filled with incorrect information and broken links, and GP surgeries were kept out of the loop so long that they have struggled to plan vaccine clinics.

Charities have also warned that vulnerable people are struggling to access booster jabs, while care leaders suggest the system for giving boosters in care homes is chaotic.

Perhaps it is asking too much of the NHS to run yet another mass-vaccination programme — worn down as it has been by a decade of austerity and very nearly floored by the pandemic. 

If that is the case, the government must find some other way to stop the spread so that the country can learn to live with this virus.

Whether it does that by bringing in the old restrictions, or speeding up the vaccine rollout remains to be seen.

But something must be done as 1,000 deaths a week is by no means "mercifully low".