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READER LETTER: Guernsey should become "an exemplar for common sense"

READER LETTER: Guernsey should become

Monday 17 January 2022

READER LETTER: Guernsey should become "an exemplar for common sense"

Monday 17 January 2022


It seems that increasing numbers of people, including some of the most eminent experts on viruses in the UK, have noticed that when it comes to covid 'the Emperor has no clothes'. The same phenomenon is apparent here in Guernsey, even though people expressing views locally that question the orthodoxy are still likely to be castigated as mavericks or non-believers in the covid religion.

By way of explanation, I quote these recent comments by three eminent doctors in the UK covid story so far, who are now, among many others, making the case for a revised approach that better fits the risk and the reality as it is today.

Dr Clive Dix, ex-Chief of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, said the UK should end mass vaccination and treat covid-19 as an endemic virus like the flu. He urged ministers to end mass vaccination once the booster campaign is over and he called for a reversal of the approach over the past two years and return to a 'new normality' and to ensure the vulnerable are protected if this is seen to be necessary.

Professor Sir Anthony Pollard of Oxford University, who helped develop the Astra Zeneca vaccine, said "it is really not affordable, sustainable or probably even needed to vaccinate everyone on the planet every four to six months". He went on to say that there was "no point in trying to stop all infections" and that "society has to open up" and when that happens there will "probably be a bump in infections".

Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, said "omicron is not the same disease we were seeing a year ago and high covid death rates in the UK are now history".

The fact is that throughout history 'group think' has often prevailed over 'sense think' and in the process crises have been transformed into utter calamities. An idea is established, becomes conventional wisdom and, even when it is clear that even more and unnecessary damage is being inflicted by continuing on a course of action that is self destructive, it nonetheless continues unchanged, and history tends not to look kindly on this.

Dr Brink said on the day I write this letter that "omicron may be milder than delta but it still has the potential to be serious".

She was right in some respects of course, but in my view wrong not to put the "potential to be serious" into context. She should have said that with local omicron case rates running into many thousands over recent weeks, and with many more likely undetected, there were still only three people in hospital and deaths from covid are thankfully very rare indeed.

Dr_Brink_Nov_21.png

Pictured: Dr Nicola Brink, Guernsey's Medical Officer of Health. 

But then the absence of context has been the modus operandi not just here in Guernsey but in some other jurisdictions as well from the outset.

Dr Brink could also have added that - to put "serious" into some sort of context so that you can understand the risk of omicron - it should be noted that the case fatality rate of flu is above the case fatality rate of omicron (figures by the Office for National Statistics and other independent and respected sources). 

But that sort of contextual information is never included in the covid narrative, perhaps because it does not fit with the always bleak messaging that is deployed to underpin all the controls and restrictions. Refreshingly, local specialist Dr Dean Patterson did put the death rates and so much more about covid into context in his recent excellent letter in this newspaper.

In fact, the data is now crystal clear: in the past few weeks, the daily omicron infection rates reported in the UK (and they will of course be a far bigger number than reported because many cases are not picked up) has been given as well over 200,000 per day, but this is now past its peak and retreated to around 140,000 by the middle of last week.

And yet the death rate from/with covid (which is often conflated and therefore distorts the headline numbers upwards) from these enormous case figures is generally still hovering around 100 or below that per day. So, as the Americans say, you do the maths: the case fatality rate of omicron is incredibly low.

The data show that, for the vast majority of people, omicron represents a mild cold-like illness and for a very large percentage of people (based on information freely available) those who contract it are asymptomatic, so they don't even know they have it. For children, it represents virtually no danger of death at all - as has been the case since the onset of covid - with a case fatality rate from covid of less that one in a million.

And before people shout 'long covid', let's remember that society cannot remain permanently stuck in a rut of life-sapping restrictions to try to avoid long covid, any more than society does that for a multitude of other illnesses that are or can be chronic.

Continuing to lock up people who have omicron to prevent them circulating in society - a society where the virus is already rampant - is rather like throwing everything at trying to stop someone putting a few more drops of water into a swimming pool that is already full. It is madness.

In times past, and indeed stretching back over every generation, people caught colds and they caught flu and other respiratory viruses, more frequently in the winter, and they used something called adult common sense sense and made a personal risk assessment. They didn't need to be told under the threat of fines and imprisonment that they should not circulate when they had flu - because the vast majority knew that instinctively and they remained at home.

Those with a cold tended not to go to work, but some did, and some other people caught a cold and some didn't, and so life went on and children were educated properly at school without masks or bubbles and they played games and they mixed and reacted together normally, which was good for their mental and physical health.

Compare that with what children are still being subjected to in Guernsey with a continuing raft of restrictions that attenuates their learning and inhibits their socialising.

Vaccine_booster_shot.jpg

Pictured: Guernsey has comparatively high rates of vaccination against covid-19.

And all of this is happening in a population where over 90% of adults are vaccinated and which we were told promised us freedom - but this is now on hold indefinitely because of omicron, which is just like a cold for the vast majority of people, infecting and then re-infecting people in as little as six weeks.

So we now have the absurd situation of people on this island who were isolating with the virus in December and who are now isolating once again with the virus in January. And, in fact, so many people are being forced into isolation in the futile attempt to stop omicron circulating that schools, utilities and other essential and inessential services are buckling under staff shortages.

And for what? An illness that has a lower case fatality rate than flu.

People really do need to stop, take a deep breath and think this through. If restrictions are not lifted with the virus as mild as it is now (it will never disappear from the planet - it is endemic) then what is the exit strategy?

Is the Civil Contingencies Authority waiting until the virus has miraculously disappeared? In which case, we will all wait for rest of our lives, living under the yoke of emergency powers, testing protocols, legally enforced isolation, mask mandates, disrupted schooling and an economy that can only ever be in survival mode at best.

Deputies De Sausmarez Ferbrache Brouard and Prow

Pictured: The members of the Civil Contingencies Authority.

But, deep down, we surely all have to come to the realisation that this is unsustainable, and the longer it continues - at this rate year after year - the more the already terrible collateral damage that is being caused to everyone in so many different ways will hurt. But, most especially, the devastating impact it is having on younger generations - and, as ever, the worst repercussions of all are and will continue to be on those children from the poorest and most deprived backgrounds in our society.

Just because some other jurisdictions may be indulging in a form of quasi-religious self-flagellation on the altar of covid, it doesn't necessarily mean that Guernsey should follow this slavishly.

With strong, independent and clear-eyed leadership now, Guernsey could set an example that would win it many plaudits.

It could, even belatedly, become an exemplar for common sense.

By Tim Chesney

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