Britain’s upcoming bleak winter

December 20, 2021 09:34
Photo: Reuters

If the news from Britain is anything to go by, the upcoming winter for the United Kingdom is likely to be a bleak, miserable, and stiff one. From potentially exponential increases in the volume of omicron cases, to the dangerous onus borne by the already overloaded NHS, to the threat of new mutations and variants emerging from runaway transformations and transfigurations to the virus; if one thing’s clear, it’s that the Omicron variant is likely to pose more of a threat than many may currently take it to, on the basis of the ostensibly mild symptoms it induces in its patients.

Initial results suggest that Omicron is significantly more transmissible than Delta (and other COVID-19 variants), as well as bearing the capability of evading vaccination and natural immunity. Even if it were the case that its mortality rates and virulence pale somewhat in juxtaposition to other COVID-19 variants, the potential repercussions of an unbridled, unrestrained spread of the variant cannot and must not be slighted: all it takes for the NHS to be overrun, is for a small minority (relatively small) of a gargantuan population to be hospitalised – and that’s looking increasingly likely, given the former Vaccines Minister’s reporting that there have already been hospitalisations in relation to the Omicron variant.

As of the day of writing, unless more drastic measures are implemented swiftly and promptly, it is likely that the number of Omicron cases in Britain would reach seven-digit figures by the end of the year – to put this into perspective, the entire British population is roughly 67 million – by mid-January, the two-day-per-doubling ratio would take the number of actual COVID-19 cases (given considerations pertaining to reinfection and natural/vaccination-induced immunity) well past the breaking point for the community – this is especially the case, given that Delta and other less contagious but more virulent variants remain in high circulation.

So what’s the path forward for Britain? It’s not necessarily all doom and gloom – at least, there remains some hope in Boris’ ambitious 1 million jab-a-day proposal for the booster shots. The million-dollar question (pun intended), however, is whether his proposition will succeed. There are several reasons for us to think otherwise – the first, is that Boris’ reputation and credibility have been substantially dented by his repeated blunders, failures, flip-flopping (with his credibility in the eyes of the British public comparable to the state of his hair); the second, is that many amongst the Tories remain hugely disunited and resentful towards Boris’ proposed measures, and the third, is the deeply engrained skepticism towards public health measures and commonsense amongst the British public at large.

The upcoming weeks, months, will prove to be a grueling slog for a vast majority of Britons – especially those who cannot afford to work from home, but who may be compelled to do so under the government’s Plans B, C, D, E, F, or, forbid, Z (some day, one day…) restrictions. It’s understandable that policy reversals are necessary at times of crises, given the arising of new information – yet it’s unforgivable that such reversals occur with the level of haste and incomprehensible incoherence that have come to characterise British politics over the past few years. From a botched Brexit to a botched COVID-19 response, there is clearly much to be desired.

If there’s one thing the rest of the world ought to pick up from Britain’s haphazard approach to the pandemic, it’s the fact that whilst living with the virus could be a plausible option and way out, this must be accompanied by a rigorous testing and vaccination routine, as well as carefully calibrated measures that mitigate against the pressure induced by the opening-up and lifting of quarantine restrictions. The pain and burden endured by the doctors and nurses on the frontlines of the NHS render them heroes and heroines – but these gigantic costs were never theirs to bear in the first place. It is ludicrous for one, for anyone, to be clapping for the carers whilst continually burying them under the costs and legacy of individual selfishness, ignorance, and recklessness. The British people deserve a better government, but those who work with blood, sweat, and tears in the NHS deserve a better public than the one they currently have.

Winter is coming, and the upcoming months are likely to be very grim. We can only hope for the very best – and pray that Britain can emerge relatively unscathed from the fourth wave of the pandemic. We can only hope.

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Editor-in-Chief, Oxford Political Review