Answer: Possibly not, but it’s not our biggest problem right now
For a long time I have been keeping a close watch of hospital admissions in the north west and also deaths. Those figures have been gently coming down for a few months. So, I must admit I hadn’t for quite a while been following the number of cases in Trafford until a week or so ago, and it was quite a shock that they’d deteriorated so quickly.
I was participating in the Covid-19 public engagement board this morning. It’s a forum for getting out key messages to support controlling the pandemic in Trafford. The Chair had some strong words in his opening that Trafford was currently suffering its highest incidence of Covid cases and was sat at the top of Greater Manchester rankings with the situation worsening. He felt that the Government were treating the pandemic as over when clearly the figures said the opposite. That’s a dilemma for me as I would argue the emphasis now should switch to repairing the damage.
Clearly the figures are striking and I can understand the consternation caused when generally we’ve never been worse than mid-table in our performance in combatting covid. That said, whilst the overall Trafford figure is high, what we appear to be seeing is a suburban surge throughout Greater Manchester particularly in the south of the conurbation. And we’re almost getting a doughnut effect. So what’s going on?
The current surge is very much focused on the age cohorts between 5 and 19 and secondly, the typical age cohort of those children’s parents. It’s those schools in the middle that have the greatest travelling around, which perhaps explains the doughnut ring effect. So lot’s of mixing, travelling and socialising.
This is not to diminish the impact of covid on these young people but we have good vaccination rates. At the same time I’m seeing so many indications of far more detrimental aspects of the 18 months of lockdown than the endemic nature of covid. This is why I’d switch the emphasis.
You might disagree with me but right now I’m more concerned with the levels of absenteeism in secondary schools across the country. That’s just one indicator but there’s many more and it’ll take years to understand the true costs of the decisions we’ve taken to combat covid but school attendance has certainly been affected.
I worry too about future levels of loneliness. That short period of adolescence into (wom)manhood between 14-18 is incredibly formative and vital and we’ve locked those young people up for long periods of lockdown, forbidden them from mixing.
People complain about the levels of anti-social behaviour but it’s remarkable to me that we’ve not seen more and worse. I worry that we’re storing up problems for years particularly when combined with damaged education delivery.
So it’s a difficult position we’re in. I do not want the Government to do more in respect of direct Covid support than they are doing. I think our job is to make the vaccine easily available. We never quite managed that in the north of the borough and there’s no longer going to be a huge return on giving easy access, but there’s booster delivery to focus on. We need to continue to provide support to care homes and those isolating. The Government should focus on providing financial more support to those who are ill or isolating but no more talk of lockdowns unless a future variant really turns this badly around.
The real thrust of our response should now be on supporting young people. We owe them restitution to enable them to build rewarding lives.
I just want to make this point. Covid has given rise to lots of wartime comparisons. My parents would have been adolescents at the start of the war. They went through a lot and lost friends and family but they came out of it proud and feeling enhanced by what they went through. This is not the same for the kids who have been through Covid. There is no wartime comparison.
My worry is that actually we’ve diminished the generations under 40, at times we’ve even blamed them, which I find incredible. I don’t expect them to ever look on lockdowns fondly or with any pride.
Lastly, I say this. Given the damage that Covid and the measures we’ve been forced into, if you’ve not been vaxxed and there’s no medical or age reason stopping you, then shame on you. I don’t particularly have a view on vaccine passports but be assured of this, any scepticism is purely practical and should in no way be interpreted as sympathy for those who choose not to be vaxxed. Jurgen Klopp is right that it should be viewed with the same contempt as drink driving.