For them and others with lasting health problems following infection – along with those who have weakened immune systems – this disease remains a spectre hanging over their lives. And while the number of deaths may have slowed, the total of nearly 220,000 people who have died from the virus to date is one that should have a sobering effect on all those commenting on the pandemic and the way it was handled.
Leaked WhatsApp messages to and from former UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock – such as the revelation that he wanted to “frighten the pants off” the public to make them comply with lockdown – may sound to some like evidence that a Draconian government was up to no good when it told us to stay at home. However, it is important to cast our minds back to the early days of the pandemic as this previously unknown, virulent and deadly disease quickly made its way across the world to the UK, and country after country put their citizens into lockdown.
It was a disease to which we had no immunity. There was no vaccine and no cure. Patients died in horrendous circumstances, gasping for breath, unable to be with loved ones. There were fears about ventilators and oxygen running out – as they did in some countries – and the health service being completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients, as doctors and nurses themselves became sick.
In such circumstances, with a lack of much in the way of alternatives, the decision to introduce lockdown – taken by both the UK and Scottish governments – was the least-worst option, particularly in Covid’s first year. It was a tough decision, especially for Conservatives, given their ideological commitment to individual freedom, but it was the right one.
Questions can be asked about how long the policy persisted, but before the scientific miracle of effective vaccines there is little doubt it was the right thing to do. Those engaging in revisionist history for political reasons hope we have short memories. We must disappoint them.