Covid-19: What do we do next?

If the pandemic has taught us anything it's that most of us are terrible at judging risks.....
25 August 2021

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If the pandemic has taught us anything - other than that working from home has pros and cons, especially if you're a parent trying to home school during a lockdown - it's that most of us are terrible at judging risks...

Whether it's people panic-buying bog roll, or eschewing a covid jab for fear of a "get hit by lightning" level of risk from a rare side effect, time and again we've seen the most irrational responses.

Covid and its connected rules and consequences - like face masks - have, predictably, also become a political battleground; an opportunity to score points by lobbing cluster bombs of mortality statistics across socially-distanced parliament buildings. Smug parliamentarians point to other countries that "have done so much better", only to drop the example when an outbreak later spawns there, and health leaders condemn vaccine policies in foreign countries only to find themselves quietly copying them months later when they turn out, actually, to have been a good idea.

The problem is that there is no Covid-19 golden rule book. We've never been down this path before, and every country is different, so what works for one won't necessarily suit another. In fact, the only predictable thing about the pandemic is that it's predictably unpredictable!

What is unarguable though is that, for many, fear is being replaced by fatigue. Once compliant populations are becoming increasingly vocal about the need to return to reality, let alone a new "normality". "Enough's enough!" they cry, as the meter on the coronavirus taxi adds another zero to the national debt, condemning another generation to punitive taxes to pay for all this.

Throughout, we've been "guided by the science", as politicians are fond of telling us. And what the science is now showing is that the Covid vaccines - that have been developed and administered in record time and, in the UK's case, administered to over 95% of some sectors of society - work outstandingly well. You're 20 times less likely to get severe Covid disease if you've had one compared to someone who hasn't.

This is reflected in the mortality statistics where cases are now ceasing to have consequences on anything like the scale they did before. Yes, some people are still catching Covid, just as people downstream of a flu jab still often succumb to flu, yet despite the encouraging results we seem to be rooted to the spot, waiting for someone to say "it's all over" before we dare do anything.

But here's the reality: if you're waiting for a Covid-free world, you'll be standing in line for a very long time. Like years.

So we need to make plans, keep calm, and carry on. The risks for the majority were small; now, thanks to vaccines, they are even smaller - certainly a lot lower than other challenges we confront regularly, and miniscule in comparison to the human cost of the obesity and diabetes pandemic that we're sleep walking into, the consequences of which wait just around the corner.

Hopefully the wake-up call that reminded us about work-life balance will stick. Employers and employees alike will undoubtedly embrace some of the benefits of home working; and, I pray, the fact that we've told every A level student that they are brilliant at everything won't send too many careering off in the wrong direction for too long.

And now that the pubs are open again, and social distancing rules are relaxed, I'll drink to that. Cheers!

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