UK prime minister Boris Johnson has agreed to end ‘Plan B’ protection measures for England. Those measures include compulsory face coverings in many indoor venues, working from home if possible, and coronavirus (Covid-19) passes for certain settings.
This is despite preliminary research from Israel suggesting that limited defence against the Omicron variant. There’s also a new, albeit small, study that suggests the number of days people could remain infectious is higher than thought.
Politics not science
Wearing of face masks will become voluntary from 24 January, but there will be a price to pay:
438 Covid deaths yesterday but face masks will no longer mandatory because remember: saving the PM is far more important than saving lives. pic.twitter.com/Nep0tc80pG
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) January 19, 2022
Independent SAGE member professor Christina Pagel argues that face coverings should be retained:
"Scientists and health leaders warn of ‘real danger’ after England’s Covid restrictions end" https://t.co/qMWxPxRozA
including a last word from me… pic.twitter.com/K6c16GBhMt
— Prof. Christina Pagel (@chrischirp) January 21, 2022
Meanwhile the British Medical Association made it clear that by lifting protective measures, the UK government is placing “the public at greater risk”:
Breaking: The British Medical Association, @TheBMA, says removing all restrictions in England "will inevitably increase transmission" and "place the public at greater risk", adding that it risks a "rebound" of Omicron infections when "the NHS is still under crippling pressure".
— Andrew Gregory (@andrewgregory) January 19, 2022
Economy comes first
On 17 January, the government issued the following ruling for England in regard to people testing positive from coronavirus:
You can stop self-isolating at the start of day 6 if you get 2 negative rapid lateral flow test results on days 5 and 6 and do not have a temperature. Tests must be at least 24 hours apart. If either test is positive, wait 24 hours before testing again.
It’s understood the reason for these changes is to help ensure that people return to work earlier, especially given staff shortages from sickness in the NHS.
However, a published clinical study provides evidence that some people may remain infectious for much longer than five days. Researchers at Exeter University claim one in ten people are still coronavirus positive after five days, and infection can last beyond 10 days if not several weeks.
They explain that PCR tests look for viral fragments, but the tests can’t confirm whether a person is still infectious. However the researchers applied a modified PCR in their study that gives a positive result if coronavirus is still active and capable of onward transmission.
Professor Lorna Harries, one of the researchers, further explained:
While this is a relatively small study, our results suggest that potentially active virus may sometimes persist beyond a 10-day period, and could pose a potential risk of onward transmission.
Professor Lawrence Young of Warwick Medical School, another of the researchers, commented:
This study reinforces concerns that reducing the self-isolation period to five days will increase the risk of highly infectious people spreading infection as they return to work or school.
The researchers want to conduct larger trials and to investigate further.
Questions about fourth jab
In December 2021, it was reported that the third (i.e. booster) jab’s protection against the Omicron variant wanes after only 10 weeks and a fourth jab may be required. Though it appears the booster “is “more likely” to remain effective against the most severe hospital cases of Omicron”.
However, preliminary findings in Israel suggest a fourth vaccine is only partially effective against Omicron
Meanwhile the European Medicines Agency recommends that a fourth booster should best be applied yearly at the onset of the cold season.
A result of uncontrolled infection and it is heading upwards particularly for the 6 to 17 age group pic.twitter.com/eILJXOm74z
— Prof. Surajit Ray (@SurajitStat) January 21, 2022
And there are still no
There is no public health justification for removing work from home where possible or mask requirements when we're at v high cases & high hospitalisations.
Plus we *have to* make schools safer, not less safe, inc clean air + offer vax to 5-11s, in whom cases are shooting up.
— Prof. Christina Pagel (@chrischirp) January 21, 2022
PM losing it
Johnson’s determination to open the economy comes at a time when he’s under siege from the partygate scandal. So it’s not surprising he’s the object of ridicule:
"Mother of God, you must think we were born yesterday, fella."
— Led By Donkeys (@ByDonkeys) January 19, 2022
At the same time, the Tory party is facing accusations of blackmail and intimidation against MPs who seek a vote of no confidence in Johnson’s leadership:
Serious. Tory MP William Wragg accuses govt whips and No 10 of blackmail and breaking ministerial code. Says they’ve threatened to withdraw investment from MPs’ constituencies if they support no confidence. Also threatened with negative press stories. pic.twitter.com/cL356h3ilI
— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) January 20, 2022
Labour MP Chris Bryant, chair of the Commons Standards Committee, commented:
Punishing an MP for not toeing the party line is one thing, but allegedly punishing entire constituencies to keep the government in power is another. These alleged threats could amount to criminal conduct and the possibility of prosecutions.
Ghost of Neville Chamberlain
But in the end, it’s all about Johnson, says Pagel:
This makes it so clear that the release of *all* measures right now (esp masks, esp schools) is only to protect himself & his job.
Boris has zero interest in protecting others from getting sick, needing hospital or dying. Or protecting businesses, schools, NHS from disruption. https://t.co/SstNZ05nGR
— Prof. Christina Pagel (@chrischirp) January 19, 2022
Meanwhile, former Conservative cabinet minister David Davis tore into Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions. Davis referenced a speech by Leo Amery in May 1940 in which he demands that Neville Chamberlain, who history portrays as an appeaser of Adolf Hitler, relinquish his position as prime minister:
You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go
Johnson is literally fighting to save his political life. Ordinary folk, meanwhile, are literally fighting off the virus to save their actual lives.
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