By Jack Street
"We must be able to trust experts and actually listen to the science in order to move forward."
There has been increasing positive news recently in the fight against Covid-19 but we must not get ahead of ourselves. There is still a lot of work to be done and the importance of the next two weeks cannot be overstated. One of the main reasons for a circuit breaker lockdown was to put in place the precautions that ensured we wouldn’t have to go back into another lockdown after the new year. This means rolling out rapid response testing, ensuring that the track and trace app actually works, giving people the financial support that they need to survive until a vaccine is rolled out and ensuring that the NHS doesn’t collapse over the Christmas period.
It seems that we are well on our way to achieving one of those things. Trials for a Covid-19 vaccine have gone superbly and, despite the rise of anti-vaxxers, most of us are excited at the prospect of being able to use a vaccine that has a 90%+ efficacy rate. We must be able to trust experts and actually listen to science in order to move forward, something that has been constantly spoken about throughout the pandemic but very rarely actioned.
I am somewhat less optimistic about the other areas I pointed out being achieved. Whilst the rapid response testing that was initially being trialled in Liverpool but has been rolled out more widely recently sounds like progress, the trials have been a mess. As the British Medical Journal (BMJ) points out, the programme will cost roughly £100 billion and when judged against the National Screening Committee’s criteria for a programme's viability, effectiveness and appropriateness it does not do well. On top of this, the Innova test that is being used misses between 1 in 2 or 1 in 4 cases in asymptomatic individuals, this means that possibly half of those tested will be told to self isolate unnecessarily. This is obviously not good enough and could have a dramatic impact on both people’s finances and mental health. There isn’t any evidence that this testing will stem the spread of the virus which makes it even more crucial that this process is properly assessed.
The BMJ goes on to suggest that the way to really tackle the virus and allow people to get on with their lives is to sort out the ‘woeful find, test, trace and isolate system and focus on symptomatic people, especially among those sections of society most at risk’.
To move forward we must finally sort out the test and trace app, gigantic private-sector profits have been made from an app that has not worked. Furthermore, we must put an end to the cronyism and corruption at the centre of government. Too much money and time have been wasted throughout this pandemic because vested interests are put before companies who can actually deliver on their work. This has been most evident in the procurement of PPE for the NHS. The government has awarded hundreds of millions of pounds to companies to create PPE many of which did not go through a competitive tender process. Furthermore, many of these companies have links to high ranking members of the government and have not produced the PPE that they promised. This scandal highlights rank corruption throughout government and has put the lives of NHS workers at risk.
"We must put an end to the cronyism and corruption at the centre of government."
The government must finally start to listen properly to the WHO, SAGE and others who are giving advice to combat the virus and learn from abroad as to what works best. Only once this happens and the corruption in government ends can we truly begin to contain the virus and move forward together.
Jack Street is the founder and CEO of DemographicaUK, a new media platform focused on the views of young people.