Pandemic Progress: Managing Expectations

Nobody expected in early 2020 that we would still have much of our lives controlled by a pandemic that few even realised was one, over half way through 2021.

Optimists now believe the vaccine roll out indicates we can ditch all restrictions before the end of this month and life can return to normal, although most accept that it will be a very different normal. Pessimists believe that while the vaccines are helping we still need to maintain some level of restrictions into the foreseeable future, since otherwise the the NHS will be overwhelmed in the autumn by a combination of seasonal flu, winter respiratory ailments among the frail and elderly and Covid among the unvaccinated.

The political problem for the government is that it has bet the house on the vaccines and the vast majority of the public across the political spectrum, whether they love Boris or hate him, have bought into the project. They have done so for their own and their families’ safety. But also, this is important, because they are doing the right thing and helping to protect others.

Now if we keep the focus narrowed to the pandemic, a compromise between these two views is relatively easy to imagine. But if we add in the economy, education, jobs, wellbeing, mental health and the whole range of socio economic challenges, then what is best is far more difficult to determine. It is clear the public has largely had enough of curbs to what they can and cannot do, especially now that the majority are vaccinated, so politically the government has little choice than to live up to the enthusiasm of its freedom day offer.

It will do this, even though the case numbers are rising fast and with further easing will rise faster still. It believes the link between case numbers and serious illness or death has been broken by the vaccine.  Even if it has, there is highly regarded modelling out there that shows a surge of hospital admissions, which though it may not topple the NHS, will again put it under considerable strain. Many more will live because of younger ages and better treatment, but the process of treatment will still demand that extra heave from an NHS which has already given more than a very full measure.

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