An enormous mistake is about to be made by governments around the world as regards the Back-to-Work policy in the middle of a pandemic
However incredible it may seem, however much we thought that these days medieval-level ignorance would shape risible policies, we can see, practically everywhere, public health authorities implementing policies on back-to-business as a political measure rather than a scientific one.
Right from the beginning, those responsible for public health got this one wrong, as indeed I predicted in my article of January 23rd 2020 (2019-nCoV: Wuhan novel Coronavirus, is this the one?). The WHO website itself was hopelessly out of date and when it was to me patently obvious that there were already sustained human-to-human chains of transmission, the notion was being ridiculed by those who are paid hefty salaries to keep us safe.
The amount of political influence and interference in these decisions, despite the politicians saying that they just follow the science, is debatable. What is very clear is that a gigantic mistake is about to be made, one which may take millions of lives unnecessarily. So let us examine the question now, before it happens, and when it does, hold those responsible to account.
Two years on, Covid-19, as it is now known, is not over. There are still tens of thousands of cases even in many developed countries and hundreds of deaths, daily. This is a fact.
On the other side of the equation, there is a general notion that the people have had enough and that they are close to breaking point and want to “get back to normal” and so there ensue buzzwords in the international media: “endgame”, “from pandemic to endemic” and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Off with the masks, back to public gatherings, back to the office, hand-shaking, kissing, visiting grandma, phew thank God for that.
A wave of relief is audible and visible and politicians preen themselves on a wave of popular support, some of them combing their hair nicely, for once... looking respectable, muttering that this is still a serious situation BUT (and here it comes), but we are in a position to relax restrictive measures.
They have already started doing so. Has it struck anyone that they almost want everyone to catch Covid-19? Rules have changed in many places about isolation of schoolchildren, meaning that a whole class and their family members are placed at risk, rules have changed about exposure to the virus and quarantine, meaning the public at large is exposed unnecessarily.
All of this is fueled by stupidity, ignorance and sheer, I would say criminal. negligence. Caused by what?
There is a false sense of security that this virus has lost strength and is no longer a threat due to the fact that in developed countries, most people are vaccinated, causing some to crow from the rooftops while others, like Portugal, got on with the job without boasting that they reached the highest number of vaccinations per capita, in the world, last year. Again, politics.
While it is understandable that people are reticent to receive a vaccine which they fear was developed too quickly, it is not reasonable to support arguments that “they” are trying to kill us or that “they” are trying to inject us with microchips and the entire Covid thing is a load of baloney. These ideas come from keyboards which accept anything a finger wishes to express, including commercial aircraft spraying us all with chemtrails or whatever nonsense people believe these days. The fact of the matter is that the vaccines work and in the enormous majority of cases, cause no symptoms, and if any at all, very mild ones and they are perfectly safe. True, there are reactions but there are reactions to aspirin. Or caffeine.
And so the success of the vaccination campaign has led us, collectively, to throw caution to the wind, declare Covid-19 an endemic reality rather than a pandemic disease. The problem with this, however sexy the policy may be, politically, is that the vaccines have a validity date slapped on the side, that they are not one-off vaccines which last a lifetime and so, back-to-business, yes, if and only if we receive a booster jab every six months. In that case, fine.
But it seems that this is not going to be the case and that the general line being followed is, OK guys we gave you your three doses, now you’re on your own. If Covid becomes weaker and remains weaker and remains as pathogenic as any type of seasonal Influenza, then once again, fine. But to date it is more pathogenic than Influenza strains and has the possibility to get worse.
And if not? And how much do we really know about Covid-19? Do we know for sure where or when it started? Or how it started? Did it come from bats in a cave in the PR China or did it come from a scientific institute which was manipulating this virus in a laboratory to examine its properties, or worse? Did it start in China, or was it already present in Spain and Italy in early 2019? And in the United States, classified as “atypical pneumonia” even before that? What do we know about its capacity for mutation?
And with ridiculously low levels of vaccinations in vast swathes of the world, once again as it could be predicted, in Africa but also elsewhere, who can say that there will not be other more lethal variants appearing in future, until everyone is vaccinated (as was the case with smallpox)?
So with so many questions unanswered, are we not being lulled into a false sense of security? Humankind is that stupid that all it takes is for enough people to say “Yeah, but we’re tired of this, just forget it and let’s all go back to the way it was before”, for politicians to bend like cowards instead of facing up to their responsibilities. This means public service and this means protecting people.
Therefore, what has to be said is no, it is not totally safe to go back to work and if your boss says you have to, then ask her/him whether if anything happens to her/his employee (regarding Covid) will the company pay the full salary to the family until retirement? If not, the company is asking the worker to risk her/his life. This is totally unacceptable. No, it is not totally safe to use public transportation, or to use a supermarket, or take an aircraft, or hang around in an airport with thousands of other passengers. Once case of a new mutation could infect thousands of people, in the beginning of a new deadly wave.
What to do? Well we know what to do. Sanitise the hands, keep social distancing, wear masks inside all the time and outside when in crowds of people, avoid crowded places and where possible, use distance working platforms. They work perfectly well. Teleshopping.
For those who cannot, for those who have to travel to clean an office, for those who have to work in shops, in garages, to attend the public, with fewer people on the means of transportation, the safer they are, the better for the environment.
What needs to be enshrined in the law is measures to protect workers, guaranteeing timetables and creating the conditions for them to perform and fulfill their job description requirements from a distance.
Some companies have adopted a hybrid system, meaning more space between workers, others have adopted hot desks, meaning employees no longer have their own personal space but are more mobile in the workspace, others have been bolder and have scrapped the office space totally, reducing overheads drastically but many, in the more traditional and conservative enterprises such as banks and insurance companies, are pressing for back-to.business policies for all.
I know people who have had Covid-19 and who did not know they had it. I know others who continued to work with me, via distance working platforms, and said “Hey Timi I have Covid” and told me they felt almost perfectly well. I know others who had the three jabs and got Covid, twice, the first time with mild symptoms and the second time, something horrible. I know people who have had to go to hospital, even those having had the vaccines, not many but a few, I know some who have totally lost their sense of taste and smell one year after infection and I know people who have died, including my closest nuclear family member. So don’t tell ME that Covid is a load of baloney.
My prediction is that if we do not continue to have booster doses of the vaccine, this thing will rear up again and become more visible this coming Autumn, just because collectively, we did not make the easy adjustments and embrace a revolution in the workplace. If we are lucky, the predominant strain will be mild. If not, we will be back to square one. And hey, suppose we concentrated on getting everyone vaccinated?
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey can be contacted at [email protected]
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