On 30th June 2022, former Health Secretary Matt Hancock wrote in the Guardian that we should “live with Covid as we do flu”.
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Here is our response:
Matt Hancock applauds the UK’s decision to end all legal Covid-19 restrictions and concludes that, despite rising infections due to yet another new variant, we have nothing to fear. The celebrations during the platinum jubilee are certainly a mark of the extent to which the UK has left the pandemic behind, but sadly Covid cannot be compared to the flu. ‘Living’ with it circulating at current levels means accepting a population with increasingly compromised health.
Recovery from Covid is not guaranteed and unfortunately we don’t yet have the ‘tools’ to prevent or treat Long Covid. Vaccines reduce prevalence but, as the ONS reports, the pool of 2 million sufferers which includes more than 800,000 unwell for a year or more, is now growing by hundreds of thousands every month.
The proportion that experiences sequelae after a Covid infection varies according to different epidemiological studies, but a conservative estimate would be 9% in vaccinated individuals, of whom at least a fifth are so severely affected that they could – and should - be classified as disabled. As a result, the workforce and economy are now being impacted by a significant increase in long term ill health, as highlighted by the Bank of England. This is not something to celebrate. The professions most affected by absences due to Long Covid are healthcare, social care and education. Many will have been infected while carrying out their duties as key workers.
Mr Hancock is well aware of the risk posed by Long Covid but chooses to ignore it. The absence of public messaging means that the consequences of a Covid infection are frequently overlooked. Anyone, of any age, who gets Covid is at risk of developing Long Covid and public figures need to acknowledge this.