Is our reaction keeping pace the changing shape of the problem?

The new strain is more than just a simple mutation, as it has undermined our previous efforts in combating the virus. The emergence of the mutation would no doubt lead to further strains on the NHS, economy, as well as our own physical and mental wellbeing.

According to the government’s scientific advisors (S.A.G.E), the new variant is 70% more transmittable compared to the virus in March. With an approximate 55,000-60,000 positive cases per day, and a terrifying record high of 1,325 (average of 1000) deaths within a 24-hour span, extreme measures have been taken by the government to limit the virus’s ability to spread further. 

So, what tougher restrictions have been implemented?  

The UK, right now, is currently undergoing their largest immunisation programme. The government have secured 240 million doses of the vaccine from leading companies, such as Pfizer, Biontech, University of Oxford/ AstraZeneca and recently Moderna. These vaccines may differ in effectiveness from 70% to as high as 95%, but nevertheless all have been approved by health officials, and therefore are ready to be rolled out. Since the first vaccinated patient (Margaret Keenan) in December 2020, approximately 2.4million people have received the covid-jab, starting with health workers, eventually making it down from the most vulnerable to the least affected.         

The vaccines are just the first steps to hopefully returning back to normality. Unfortunately, without the public following the government guidelines, we are likely to endure tougher restrictions and prolonged lockdowns, which are necessary to reduce the rate of transmission.     

The NHS are at breaking point as the new variant has led to a surge in hospital admissions. In Kent (one of the most badly affected areas) patients are being transported 250 miles away to Bristol due to a shortage of hospital beds. The UK have set up temporary hospitals like the NHS Nightingale to accommodate an extra 4,000 patients if the virus maintains its current momentum. However, as bodies begin to pile up and capacity runs thin, how much more can the NHS cope with before it starts to breaks in?  

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By Nigel Tate: Political Editor.

Photo: Hakan Nural

patients are being transported 250 miles away to Bristol due to a shortage of hospital beds. The UK have set up temporary hospitals like the NHS Nightingale to accommodate an extra 4,000 patients

As the UK undergoes a third lockdown, the effects on our economy have been devastating. The UK has spent around £280bn to combat the virus, and an estimated spending of £394bn by April 2021. The fight to stop COVID-19 has meant that the UK’s national debt have surpassed £2tn. The future seems uncertain as the job market shows little signs of bouncing back, especially with a record high number of redundancies (370,000) between August and October 2020.

Last September, the government were adamant that schools will remain open, as they did during the second lockdown. However, this new variant is so destructive that schools were forced to close. Hopefully by mid-February this restriction will be revised, as the quality of education through online teaching have really hindered a pupil’s ability to fully understand the national syllabus. Gavin Williamson (Education Secretary) did announce that both A-levels and GCSEs (in England) would be scrapped and student’s grades will in fact be based on teacher’s assessment, perhaps to avoid another up-roar like last August.  Either way, the virus has shown no mercy as it seeks to destroy not only our lives, but also our livelihoods.

The Chief Medical Advisor, Christopher Whitty, has presented the notion that the “next few weeks are going to be the worst”. His comments might be referring to the fact that we have not reached the peak yet, but could also imply that if we do not follow the rules, we will only make it tougher for ourselves. Our efforts alone could reduce the pressure on the NHS, and even lead to our ultimate goal of a covid-free nation.

MACKAYAN: new year, new strain