The Prime Minister’s plan to end self-isolation for people who test positive for Covid-19 this month is a dereliction of duty. Zero Covid UK condemns this decision in the strongest possible terms, as it
Bringing forward the plans to remove self-isolation legislation without giving MPs a chance to advocate for keeping them in place is a political stunt aimed at distracting from so-called ‘partygate’. Johnson’s first duty is to the people of this country, not to his libertarian backbenchers. How many more of us have to die, endure long Covid, lose income in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, or worry about whether we’ve infected our parents, friends or colleagues, just so that he can cling onto office?
Since ‘Freedom Day’ on 19 July, the virus has killed 30,000 people. None of us are free to go about our daily lives in the usual way in these circumstances, especially not the 3.7 million at-risk shielders. Do we want to live in a society that excludes older people, those being treated for serious illnesses like cancer, those with disabilities and those with chronic medical conditions? What could the Prime Minister have found so encouraging in the data, with 66,638 new cases and 206 deaths announced on 10 February? As the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said recently:
We have the tools to prevent this disease, to test for it, and to treat it. Where people have access to those tools, this virus can be brought under control. Where they don’t, this virus continues to spread, to evolve, and to kill.
Removing the self-isolation laws strips us of a necessary tool for bringing Covid under control.
Ironically, the Government is ‘recommending’ that people don’t go to work ‘when they have an infectious disease’, but ‘recommendations’ and ‘personal responsibility’ are simply not enough. The same rules need to apply to all of us.
Under the current legislation, employers can face fines of up to £10,000 for allowing a worker who should be self-isolating to come into the workplace. If this fine no longer applies, more employers will require workers to return to work while infectious, thus putting their colleagues and customers at risk.
Already there is very little financial support for self-isolation, and sick pay in the UK is among the lowest in Europe. The Government has now made it clear that they would prefer to stop requiring self-isolation altogether rather than enable those on low incomes to comply.
Experience has already shown us that we cannot simply wish our way out of the pandemic by declaring that it’s over. A vaccines-plus approach, which is in line with international best practice in public health, is the only way to save lives, keep society open and protect people while the virus is still present. The Government must change course and focus on suppressing transmission rates and keeping them down. As we have seen over the past two years, countries that take this approach have had far fewer deaths, illness, and economic damage than those that have adopted a laissez-faire approach or relied on vaccines alone.
Omicron and the other Covid variants can reinfect people, and the immunity gained from the current vaccines and boosters will soon wane. High transmission rates enable the virus to mutate into variants that could cause even more severe disease. Herd immunity is not possible with SARS-CoV-2, so letting the virus rampage through society will achieve nothing but misery, chaos, destruction and death. We will not be free until the Government takes proper action to control the virus.