Express & Star comment: Response to second wave must be better

During the summer it appeared – for a while at least – that we were getting on top of Covid-19.

A healthcare worker
A healthcare worker

With the benefit of hindsight, it is now clear this was not the case.

The most senior government advisers point out that more people are now in hospital with Covid than before restrictions were introduced in March, reinforcing the precariousness of our position.

Perhaps we could have adopted policies that would have helped suppress the virus more effectively. Instead, we find ourselves in a position similar to where we were in March, having sacrificed much for little in return.

The new three-tier system, trailed like a forthcoming movie for the past week, has been finally unveiled.

Nightingale hospitals are on alert. Deaths will increase in the next fortnight, hospital admissions already have. Our children are still at school, thankfully, and most businesses continue to function.

The second wave is different to the first, or, rather, our response is different. It should be. The doves won the argument the first time around when health professionals were given the whip hand and the policy was to save lives at all costs. Our approach this time must be more nuanced. The cost of Covid-19 has been catastrophic. Our public finances are in ruin and worse times are ahead as the Government finds money to prop up sectors that cannot trade for fear of them becoming super spreaders.

As hospitals brace for the influx of patients, we must reflect on where we are and what we must do to get through winter. An effective vaccine is most likely between six and 12 months away. In the interim, we must hold the line and engage in an exercise of damage limitation to save as many lives as possible while also ensuring our economy can still function after this has passed, as eventually it will.

We can take confidence that the world has dealt with killer viruses on many occasions, reducing their lethality. Time is against us, however, and the economic damage grows each day.

People in hospitality – already poorly paid – cannot subsist on a two-thirds wage, nor can the Government keep on spending more and more money. The nation is between a rock and a hard place and no Cabinet since the Second World War has faced tougher choices.

As a community, we must relieve the pressure on the NHS as we head into flu season. We must practice social distancing, wash our hands and observe public health messages, recognising our responsibility in tackling this deadly virus.

We must be kind, too, recognising issues of loneliness, isolation and stress. Now is the time to pull together for the common good. If at all possible, we must keep our schools open and act in good faith with track and trace.

The Government must do better. It has missed opportunities to do the right thing, made too many U-turns and been guilty of dithering.

Worse, it has developed a reputation for miscommunication. It needs to straighten things out and start being straight – talking to MPs and the nation, winning back public trust. Its credibility ratings have fallen because it has performed poorly.

It will be the longest, hardest winter in most of our lives. But we will get through it together. Neighbourliness, kindness and best practice have never been so important.

Together, we will defeat Covid-19.

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