Chancellor, Rishi Sunak has indicated that the two metre distancing rule will be reviewed imminently, suggesting Boris Johnson’s ominous warning yesterday that the rule may be scrapped altogether could be close at hand.
The fact that the Chancellor will be reviewing the rule and announcing changes suggests the move is an economic decision and not one based on social health, revealing, once again, that Boris Johnson’s motives are fixed firmly on industry, not people.
Financial analyst Jody Heisenberg said, “Johnson’s eagerness to rush toward a quick-fix solution for the economy simply reveals the gaping hole where his brain should be. He displays a deeply worrying lack of foresight as a ratcheting up of the economy now could mean a deeper plunge should a second wave hit.”
“We’re already on the verge of the worst economic recession in living memory. A knee-jerk reaction now from the Tories could make things even worse in just a few months time. We’ll have a second wave worse than the first and the effect on businesses barely surviving now will be devastating.”
Rishi Sunak announced today that a review of the 2-metre rule will take place next week and promised the review would ‘make an enormous difference’ to businesses, suggesting the distancing rule is likely to be either reduced or scrapped altogether.
Sunak told reporters, “I’m very understanding of the calls for action… particularly for our hospitality industry, for our pubs, for our restaurants.”
He said progress made to stem the spread of coronavirus means the government can begin to ‘kick-start our economy’ and that ‘starts with our high streets’.
However, the government have come under heavy criticism for cooking the figures at the height of the crisis, leaving many to wonder if the current statistics are also being manipulated for the sake of boosting the economy and prodding markets in a more hawkish direction.
Several prominent health experts seemed to confirm Heisenberg’s fears this week as they watched the government systematically dismantle strict measures put in place over the last three months.
Good Morning Britain’s medical expert, Dr Hilary Jones spoke out on Tuesday, saying that an easing of social distancing too soon could mean ‘trouble’ further down the road.
Doctor Ron Daniels, a consultant at Birmingham Hospital also voiced his concerns, saying he feels reducing coronavirus restrictions is currently ‘too risky’, adding that doing so could lead directly to a second wave of infection “even bigger than the first”.
The government insist that their decisions are based on the R rating, an indicative measurement which compares NHS capacity with infection rates, however the R rating relies on statistics which the government refuse to make public.
On the Andrew Marr show today, Matt Hancock refused to be drawn into giving any precise figures over testing or infection rates, saying the details needed to be ‘sorted out by the statisticians’.
Professor Azra Ghani, an expert in infectious diseases who works at Imperial College London said the R rating is rarely measured directly – but rather is ‘inferred from patterns in surveillance data’.
She said, “at present we are estimating both R and the infection rate from data on hospitalisations. These form only a small fraction of all infections and represent an estimate of transmission that occurred 1-2 weeks earlier – and are therefore a blunt monitoring tool.”
“Without rapid testing of all suspect cases it will be impossible to estimate the true level of the epidemic across the country, or in specific geographic locations, with any degree of precision.”
Hancock this week announced that the Track & Trace app, which would have helped create a more accurate picture of cross-country infections, had been delayed and then scrapped entirely.
Meanwhile Professor Neil Greenberg, a psychiatrist at Kings College London raised the spectre of another, less well known issue that could make a second wave more problematic than the first.
Greenberg warned that an epidemic of post traumatic stress disorder among NHS staff and other key workers caused by the strain of coping with Coronavirus patients had been routinely ignored by the government, despite warnings that they should address the issue.
Greenberg predicted that when an inevitable second wave came, the current raft of health workers would not be ‘ready to go again when the country needs them’.