Matt Hancock’s blase attitude to the rise in Covid cases is alarming
Dr Simon Williams says the former health secretary shows a worrying lack of understanding; Verity Gibson finds his views insulting. Plus letters from Jude Geddes and Dr Jon Scales
Matt Hancock’s views show a worrying lack of understanding from a former health secretary (Yes, the number of Covid cases in the UK is rising – but that is no cause for alarm, 30 June). He misleadingly claims that removing restrictions in the UK in February did not lead to a surge in cases, hospitalisations and deaths. Although, thankfully, vaccines have drastically reduced the number of deaths seen in 2020-21, the UK nevertheless experienced a significant wave of cases and hospitalisations in March-April 2022. The problem is the sustained pressure this puts on an already overstretched NHS.
“There are some saying that the pandemic is not yet over,” says Hancock. Indeed, the World Health Organization and most credible scientists agree that it is not over. By suggesting that calls for restrictions are scaremongering, Hancock misses the point. Yes, public health policy shouldn’t need to be alarming, but it should include measures to protect the public and help reduce transmission, such as free Covid testing, better sick pay, better ventilation in schools and workplaces, and the reintroduction of masks in medical settings.
Dr Simon Williams
Matt Hancock is right to applaud the tremendous effort involved in getting so many of us vaccinated. However, to compare Covid to flu is wrong. The impact of Covid is felt not only in those who have been seriously ill or bereaved, but also by those of us who are chronically ill or caring for someone with long Covid. To suggest that we are now in a position where Covid is no longer a threat is insulting to the millions of people whose lives continue to be utterly devastated by this disease.
It is disingenuous to assert that we can rely on antibodies and vaccines to control the virus. As a triple-vaccinated teacher who caught Covid in March, I have been unable to return to work yet due to long Covid. I, and many others working around me, caught Covid within four months of our third vaccine dose. Nobody wants more lockdowns, but ignoring a virus that can and does evade immunity is more likely to lead us there. Instead, we could have an alert system, as they do in places such as New York, which triggers preventive action such as mask wearing and testing when community transmission increases; we could improve indoor ventilation in public spaces, as in Belgium. Under this government, we are sleepwalking into yet another wave of illness.
Name and address supplied
Masks, tests, isolation if sick and sick pay are not restrictions – they are mitigations that protect the population from disease. This false dichotomy of “nothing or lockdown” needs to stop. There is a wealth of protective measures in between (as well as vaccination) that a responsible government would be encouraging people to employ. Instead, vulnerable people are left still shielding and everyone else is expected to accept repeated Covid infection as a part of life.
Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
I agree with Matt Hancock that vaccines are the way forward. Maybe he has inside knowledge on health department planning? Can he tell me where I can get the yearly vaccine he recommends? The government has not invited me to book one yet. Am I missing something?
Dr Jon Scales