Boris Johnson’s deadly ‘freedom day’ gamble

Christina Pagel explains why the NHS will struggle to cope with the increasing rate of hospitalisations due to Covid-19, when the government abolishes all restrictions in England on 19 July (Boris Johnson gave two reasons for lifting all restrictions. Both are wrong, 13 July). There is another reason why the government should have delayed: it is not going to meet one of its vaccination targets, that of offering all adults their first dose by 19 July.

The first dose vaccination coverage for the 18 and over population in England at 12 July was 87%, only 1% higher than the coverage seven days earlier, at 5 July. At this slow rate of giving first doses, 12% of adults will be completely unvaccinated at 19 July – people in whom the virus will be able to spread unchecked, resulting in more variants of concern, more cases of long Covid, more admissions to hospital and more deaths.

The government should have included its vaccination targets in its tests for abolishing restrictions, as a carrot to encourage the reluctant to get immunised, and to maximise the benefits of the vaccine programme in reducing the effects of the current wave of infection.
Diana Mallinson
Giggleswick, North Yorkshire

The confluence of a libertarian prime minister and a libertarian health secretary was likely to spell disaster for the NHS, and so it has, as Rachel Clarke’s heart-wrenching account demonstrates (The NHS is already overstretched – dropping Covid restrictions will spell disaster for patients, 11 July).

How dare ministers profess to care about NHS staff when their crass actions have such a devastating impact on them? Moreover, having caused thousands of needless deaths among vulnerable care home residents in previous pandemic waves, Boris Johnson is now preparing to inflict another wave on unvaccinated young people, in a reversion to his initial herd immunity strategy. As Clarke says, the government’s decision to “pour petrol on Covid numbers” is disgusting. It is immoral to knowingly expose people to potentially great harm and an abdication of responsibility to pass the buck to individuals.
Alan Walker
Professor of social policy, University of Sheffield

I read the article by Rachel Clarke with increasing unease as it started ringing parallel alarm bells. The Conservatives never liked council housing, so they gradually chipped away at it and it went from being used by people from all backgrounds in the 1960s to being used only by those in severe need now. Covid-19 is helping them similarly chip away at the NHS. Those on the ever-lengthening waiting lists who have the money will grit their teeth and go private, and soon the NHS will be the service for those who cannot afford to go private. The worn-out staff will go and work for agencies or the private sector as the only way to keep their sanity and prevent burnout. To think the Conservatives care about public services and those who use them and work within them is to delude oneself.
Joy McLaughlan

Interesting that the prime minister has given the “natural firebreak” of the school holidays as one of his top reasons for lifting restrictions on 19 July . Is he not aware that the vast majority of state schools do not break up until 23 July? Waiting another four days could have prevented the last week of the school term from becoming a highly efficient super-spreader event. But then he wouldn’t know, would he? Eton broke up on 3 July.
Mary Smith
Bearsted, Kent

Now that the prime minister is prepared to trade lives for the economy and a honeymoon, might I suggest both he and the health secretary share the final 24 hours of a Covid patient in an intensive care unit, so that they fully understand what this “deal” delivers for many of us? Before next Monday, preferably. I’m sure the relevant consents could be obtained.
Mark Russell
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire

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