Covid lockdown: Nicola Sturgeon is listening to scientists while Boris Johnson puts economy over people's lives – Professor Harry Burns

They think it’s all over… but it’s not! England is moving ahead with lifting Covid restrictions while, inevitably, Scotland is being more cautious.

Why are we moving more slowly? It’s probably because the Scottish government pays more attention to scientific and medical advice while, in England, the economy matters more than people’s lives.

Yes, the vaccination programme has had a tremendous impact but it’s not quite finished. There are still many young people and a fair number of older people who should be vaccinated if we want to achieve maximum protection.

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A colleague who works in emergency care in England recently told me of significant numbers of patients in their 20s and pregnant women being admitted to his hospital each day. Some cases have even been vaccinated.

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Also, he was dealing with the pandemic’s unseen casualties. They are the people with potentially curable illnesses who could not be admitted for treatment when they first had symptoms. We must continue to suppress the virus to allow reestablishment of care for other illnesses.

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Analysis: Nicola Sturgeon moves away from Boris Johnson's 'Freedom Day'
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The Prime Minister’s statement on Monday was confused and incoherent in its outline of public health policy. He said this was not Freedom Day, emphasised the need for caution, and said that life would not be going back to where it was before Covid.

He said he "expects" masks to be worn in crowded indoor public places. He then contradicted those sentiments by removing all legal requirements to do what he was urging the public to do.

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Covid is spreading most rapidly in the young who need to be vaccinated as quickly as possible to allow society to re-open further in a responsible way (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

In a BBC interview, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s Council, compared this approach to government reporting more road traffic accidents due to speeding and then removing speed limits altogether and simply hoping people will take personal responsibility to drive safely!

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We are currently seeing around 2,000 new hospital admissions daily while a few weeks ago, admissions were down at around 100 each day. While the Delta variant is less likely to cause fatal illness, some patients will die and many of the survivors will carry the risk of long Covid.

This is a condition in which the body produces antibodies to its own tissues. Damage can occur in all the major organs. Damage to heart, lung, kidney, skin and brain tissues have all been reported.

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Not only will more people get seriously ill from these conditions and some will die, but many others who have waited even more than a year for treatment of other illnesses will have their treatment delayed further.

I have heard it argued on television that there is never a perfect time to remove restrictions. Removing restrictions at a time of increasing incidence of illness and hospital admissions makes absolutely no sense.

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The infection is spreading most rapidly in the young. We need to get them vaccinated as quickly as possible. Then we can open up society in a responsible and sensible way.

Scotland and Wales are both being more cautious than England. This caution is entirely justified by the evidence. We are unlikely ever to eradicate coronavirus infections, just as we have never eradicated influenza after the 1918 pandemic. We will probably need to learn to live with it. But we can learn to live with it in a safe manner.

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Sir Harry Burns is a Strathclyde University professor and ex-Chief Medical Officer for Scotland

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