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With the UK going rogue in the battle against Covid, we must redouble our efforts


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA Wire

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA Wire

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA Wire

There is a fatalistic view that holds if you can’t be a good example, then at least be a terrible warning.

And this seems to be the view taken by 100 of the world’s leading health experts of Boris Johnson’s “Freedom Day” approach to lifting all restrictions. As a fourth wave of the virus threatens, they have issued a searing rebuke of the British prime minister’s strategy.

They describe the tolerance of high levels of the virus as unethical and illogical.

An exponential growth of the virus, they warn, “will likely continue until millions more are infected, leaving hundreds of thousands with long-term illness and disability”.

In a letter published in The Lancet, they highlight the risk of “creating a generation left with chronic health problems and disability, the personal and economic impacts of which might be felt for ­decades to come.”

All of this, as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said earlier in the week, could have grave implications for this country, given our unique ties.

In this battle against the virus, we have seen how a refusal to correct one’s errors despite expert advice, or refusal to adapt in the face of warnings, tends to come at an exorbitant cost.

Yet Mr Johnson has shown no hint of altering his course. But as the editor of The Lancet, Dr Richard Horton, noted: “The government (British) plan is not, as some have characterised it, a reasonable gamble – it is an entirely unnecessary and self-
inflicted hazard that will cause real harm to health.”

The last thing anyone needs to contend with is the opening of another front.

Already HSE chief Paul Reid has said the growth of the Delta variant is likely to “outmatch” vaccine supply over coming weeks.

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He said he wished there was more time, and more supplies, to enable the health service to stay ahead of the increase in cases. With so many countries battling to survive, it makes it all the more incomprehensible that others would jeopardise hard-won progress for short-term shallow victories.

Dr Mike Ryan of the WHO yesterday appealed for more concerted action in combating Covid-19 – and, most especially, in making sure the developing world is not left behind. Dr Ryan said there is “surely a way” for countries to look after their own and help others, “because it helps us back”.

“It is time for countries to step forward and say, ‘We can do both of these things; we can protect our own and we can reach out and protect others,’” Dr Ryan said.

The pace of viral mutations adds to the urgency of international solidarity. As the Delta variant gains traction, we hardly need to do anything to further handicap ourselves.

If we are to hold the line, the sooner vaccine certs, digital passports, and other hospitality and travel protocols are agreed, the better.

For something resembling normal life to resume, we must redouble our efforts to get all eligible ­people vaccinated.

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