We Must Not Lockdown Over The Indian Variant – Conservative Article
And so, it has happened again. Another COVID variant has occurred, this particular variant originating from India. This variant is highly infectious and caused the collapse of India’s healthcare system.
When this variant was first identified in the UK, it caused panic. Could what happened in India happen again in the UK? Could this be the time where the NHS becomes overwhelmed? These questions caused scientists to question the 17 May lockdown easing and posed even more doubt over the 21 June easing. After the 17 May changes went ahead, scientists queried if they would have to be reversed. But locking down (again) must not be the solution.
This variant gained particular attention because of the chaos and collapse that it caused in India. Since March, COVID cases and deaths have exploded in the country, hospitals have been overwhelmed, supplies have run short and India has had to make an international appeal for help. Because of the unreliability of official statistics recording cases and deaths, journalists have been going to morgues to count the bodies themselves. So many people have been dying that crematoriums have run out of space for them.
It goes without saying that this is horrific. However, this picture is unrepresentative of how deadly the virus is, mainly because of the failures of the Indian government. After the first wave of COVID, India’s government dropped their guard on any potential for a second wave, by holding election rallies attended by mass crowds. Modi also refused to cancel a religious festival that drew millions to the Ganges River. Modi simply thought his country would avoid another wave, despite the fact that countries across the world had experienced them.
India didn’t stock up on supplies either, meaning that it was exposed to another wave. While 150 oxygen plants were set up since the first wave, only 33 were running by the time of the second wave. The Indian health minister, Harsh Vardhan, claimed that the country was in the endgame of the pandemic and that there was a steady supply of vaccines.
However, the first claim was made when India was already in its second wave, and because of a lack of vaccine supply, India stopped exporting vaccines, despite the fact India is the world’s biggest producer of vaccines. India has only partially vaccinated 11% of its population and fully vaccinated 3%. Harsh Vardhan also appeared to endorse a herbal remedy for the virus, leading to criticism from the Indian Medical Association.
These failures from the Indian government show that it was their fault for the devastating impact that the second wave has had on India. While the mutation could not have been prevented and was more infectious on its own, it is not the first infectious mutation to occur and Modi could have been more prepared for it. This has meant the danger presented to other countries that have had a stronger COVID response has been overstated.
When the variant was found in England, alarm bells immediately went off. There was panic about the proposed lockdown easing, and if the variant could be stopped by our current vaccines.
Thankfully, however, the variant does not evade current vaccines. A Public Health England study showing that both doses of the Pfizer vaccine provide 88% effectiveness and both doses of AstraZeneca offer 60% effectiveness. One dose of Pfizer and AstraZeneca gives 33% protection against the variant. Because the UK has a more successful vaccination drive than India, we are better protected against the variant.
Furthermore, the UK has been under strict lockdown conditions and many people in government have been echoing caution with easing. While the UK government’s message has been confusing at times, it has always suggested erring on the side of caution. There have been no quack cures that were advocated by the government, and they have pushed the vaccine extremely hard.
The government has also not organised mass election rallies. Even though council elections are smaller, there is a huge difference in the way they have been run here compared to India. Because of this, the UK is in a much better position to manage living with the variant instead of it decimating the NHS.
While it might cause an uptick in hospitalisations where the variant is high and vaccine take-up is low like in Bolton, it appears that most of the patients who are in hospital are eligible for a vaccine yet haven’t had one. Whatever the reason for this, adding restrictions would be unfair on those who have had a vaccine, not to mention hugely damaging mentally and economically.
Those who voluntarily refuse the vaccine are exercising their right to choose not to have it. While I disagree with that stance, we cannot lockdown again because of it. People must have the right to choose and exercise their freedoms, that is what living in a free society means. Locking everyone down again because of this would be unjustifiable.
Vaccines are our way out of lockdowns, and they still offer protection from the Indian variant. We must learn to live with the virus.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Point of Information
We Need to Break the Lockdown Cycle – A Liberal Response
I’m sure I speak for the majority when I say that we, as a nation, are sick of lockdowns. For over a year, we have had our expectations toyed with by an incoherent government response. Luckily, we have avoided Modi’s misrule.
But, as Cumming’s testimony shows, our government has made severe blunders too – something Kieran’s article avoids. It is only the incredible efforts of the British people and our NHS that have saved us from the brink of catastrophe. And a fourth lockdown would be an offence to all this hard work.
Yet in general, Kieran is absolutely correct. We must now live with the virus. Imposing a nationwide lockdown after our overwhelmingly successful vaccination drive is completely unnecessary.
More than that, it would be extremely harmful. Our stop-and-start lockdowns have inflicted untold damage to our economy. There is also the unquantifiable mental toll that each lockdown has had. When each lockdown was eased, confusion and economic uncertainty soon followed. We must break this vicious cycle of locking down and opening up, and the consequences this brings.
However, until now, lockdowns have been a necessity whilst our most vulnerable lay susceptible and our death toll matched only America’s. Indeed, if the government’s lockdown had been continuous, we would have undoubtedly saved many lost lives. Yet in hindsight, lockdown was our only viable solution until we discovered the vaccine. Now we have the ideal solution, why should we continue to opt for the imperfect one?
With 50% of the adult population fully vaccinated, and the most susceptible now shielded, it is time to resume life again. Another national lockdown because of the India variant would bring more, not less suffering. It is time to break the cycle.
Written by Chief Liberal Writer, Frank Allen
The Path Forward is International Cooperation – A Labour Response
I would like to echo the thoughts of my colleagues; lockdowns must be left in the past, and we must turn to the next chapter of the Covid-19 pandemic response.
The path that will lead us back to the ‘pre-Covid normal’ is the hugely successful vaccine drive and restrictions on travel. Confidence in the vaccine programme should be boosted by the approval of the Johnson-Johnson vaccine; a one jab vaccine that will further increase the pace of the vaccine rollout as it turns its attention to the younger age groups.
With a 72% efficacy rate from a single jab, it will be best utilised among those individuals who are both young and medically low-risk. In relation to travel restrictions, they are significantly impactful for the aviation industry and for summer holiday hopefuls across the UK, but they are most important for reducing the rate of mutation of the virus.
I rarely find reason to praise Matt Hancock but his comments at the G7 Health summit were heartening. Mr Hancock emphasised the need for cooperation going forward to identify, monitor and resolve the animal and environmental conditions that can cause pandemics such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
The message of international cooperation and the focus on the need to reevaluate how we treat animals and the environment is positive. Whether these statements amount to any meaningful policy changes is yet to be seen.
Kieran and Frank are right to point out the failures of the Indian government; it is a tragedy that their mismanagement has unnecessarily impacted so many. It is now imperative the UK continues to help India navigate this pandemic. Earlier this year at the start of May, the UK sent a large number of medical supplies and equipment to India. Well over 1000 ventilators and nearly 500 oxygen concentrators were shipped to India.
The Covid-19 pandemic cannot be declared over until all countries are able to declare it under control. Tests, vaccines and information being universally accessible is the goal the world must work toward.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Henry Mckeever