Nothing sums up the ridiculous discourse Britain has over Covid than this week’s fearmongering about the ‘Indian variant’. The story goes like this: a new variant of Covid is discovered, the media gets hysterical about the potential for the new variant to evade the vaccine, left-wing academics demand lockdown is extended, it is – the dystopia goes on. Enough is enough.
Rather than repeating this same old charade, condemning people and businesses to further unnecessary misery – the time has come for the Government to face the facts. Despite all the hysteria about the risks of new variants in recent months, not one has emerged that has been proven to dent, in a meaningful way, the effectiveness of the vaccines at preventing deaths and hospitalisations.
Unfortunately, despite this good news, certain scientists – seemingly longing to extend their moment in the sun – keep coming up with a series of contortions to explain why freedom must not be allowed, inspired by something known as the precautionary principle. It goes like this: because opening up could theoretically lead to the spread or development of a new variant, as well as posing a risk to those who have refused to be vaccinated, we cannot risk going back to normal. It is worth breaking down the full, sinister, implications of this approach.
For starters, as anyone with a GCSE in biology would be able to tell you, viruses mutate. It is what they do. Consequently, unless Covid can be entirely eliminated from Britain and prevented from re-entering, we are always going to face the hypothetical risk of new variants developing and spreading – hence the calls to retain lockdowns, travel bans and social distancing essentially indefinitely under this approach. With this perspective, even knowing the vaccines work against specific new variants that have emerged – as we now do with the Indian one – is not really relevant, as the risk of yet another new variant emerging over the horizon will always be deemed too grave.
Similarly, with vaccine refuseniks. Whilst, much should be done to reassure people that vaccination is safe, it seems inevitable that there will always be a segment of people who will simply never take it on “principled” grounds. Combined with children (with no current plans to vaccinate them) and the fact that the vaccines are never 100 per cent effective in preventing infection, a limited spread of Covid looks likely to be an ongoing feature of our future – whether we unlock sooner or later. Thus, the unvaccinated will always be at risk.
So given that this is a permanent situation we are faced with, unless we are to live in this dystopian world forever, it is high time the Government faces this nonsense risk-averse mentality down, and ideally with a few new precepts: inevitability and responsibility. If vaccines cannot stop Covid, then we are out of options, and we as a world are just going to have to move on. For those who are willing to take the risk of going unvaccinated, then they are going to have to take personal responsibility if any harm comes to them.
Instead of worrying about hypothetical dangers which we cannot sustainably do anything about, we need to worry about the existing ones: poor mental health, financial destitution, authoritarianism. It is time to get back to normal life.