AS THE Conservative Party tears itself apart, what’s left of the Government drifts and the media salivates – the real news on so many fronts is being left to fester or go by without the attention it deserves and requires.
You may not have seen or heard but in the last week there have been yet more revelations about the real and uncontested harms of lockdowns – news that is so alarming that in any normal day it would have grabbed everyone’s attention by the scruff of the neck – but in today’s febrile political pantomime is currently relegated to a third-rank issue of interest (after resignations and reactions to resignations – repeat cycle).
I therefore thought it would be useful to record those that I have seen so they are not lost altogether and may yet be discussed when the (neglected) Covid Public Inquiry finally begins to take on its solemn task.
The first I shall mention is the return of Polio. Yes, you read Polio correctly.
MPs have warned that a price of the “worldwide obsession” with Covid and the propensity of governments to introduce lockdowns has been that children have missed their inoculations against Polio and it has crept back. Esther McVey, the Conservative co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Pandemic Response, has raised the alarm that despite warnings priorities were changed in healthcare and the importance of inoculating against Polio was relegated. She argues one entirely avoidable collateral damage from lockdown priorities has been the reappearance of Polio.
The UK was declared polio-free nearly twenty years ago in 2003, but a recent new outbreak is the first recorded transmission since 1984. Evidence of the polio virus was detected in London sewage in February this year and then again in April and May, suggesting the virus has evolved and has been passed between individuals over several months. Children are supposedly vaccinated against Polio routinely ,but the latest figures show 101,737 (14.7%) of children in England reaching the age of five had not yet received their polio booster – with around a third of those children (34,105) in London alone.
For children in year 10 of England’s schools a fifth – 123,132 of the 625,379 total – had not received their teenage booster against Polio. Public Health advisers to the Government have warned against “vaccination fatigue” leading to a sharp drop in jabs for children.
In June this year the government’s Joint Committee for Vaccinations and inoculation (JCVI) reported a decline of approximately 20% per cent in secondary school pupils receiving shots for HPV, Meningitis and the three-in-one booster against Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio.
Graham Stringer, Labour co-chairman of the APPG for the Pandemic Response, has similarly warned that health officials need to urgently “rebuild trust in the immunisations that Children actually need”. He contrasted the Government’s approach of promoting the Covid-19 Jab for children despite there being no clear benefits while other “essential childhood vaccination programmes” with proven benefits have become neglected.
It is not just children’s health that we need to be concerned about, it is also their education – this follows the news that only 59% of Year Six pupils in England met the anticipated standard in reading, writing and maths this year compared to 65% in 2019 before the pandemic.
Commenting in the Telegraph, Molly Kingsley, from the parents campaign group UsforThem, said: “This should surprise no one. It was known at the time when schools were closed two years ago that there was no adequate substitute for most children and so it proved. Year Six is a key transitional year. How are they going to cope with secondary school? We are setting them up for failure, when we should be setting them up for success.”
Interestingly the score for reading rose by 1% to 74% in 2019 – suggesting a benefit from a great deal more reading being done in the home – but only 71% (compared to 79%) pupils met the expected standard in maths, while 69% met the expected standard in writing (compared to 78%). Writing is not, however, SATS tested but based on teacher assessment. It is the area that has suffered the most because it requires expertise to know how to move it on and harder for parents to teach grammar at home than supporting more reading.
The foregoing news on childhood vaccinations and educational attainment has been accompanied by the highly alarming news that hundreds more people than is to be expected are dying every week in England and Wales and the majority of those deaths are not Covid-related.
Official ONS figures for the week ending 24 June reported 1,540 excess deaths but only around 10% were due to Covid-19. Causes for the rise in excess deaths will be complex and varied but the failure of the NHS to diagnose or treat people during the pandemic, or the stress caused from lockdowns and their impacts are all possible reasons.
One particular unexplained figure is 752 excess deaths at home, 30% more than is usual and greater than the number in hospitals and care homes put together. The unexplained rise in excess deaths has led to calls for the Government to hold an inquiry to why the figures have arisen. If these numbers continue to rise this story must develop in importance and cannot be ignored.
Recovery has repeatedly warned of the wider impact on public health outcomes due to lockdowns. We predicted increased mortality from untreated heart disease and cancers, the known impact of isolation which increases the incidence and severity of dementia in older people (dementia is the UK’s biggest killer), untreated conditions as people were too scared to go to hospital (which Government estimates said killed 6,000 people during the first lockdown alone, not counting longer-term impacts); the damage to the immune system caused by restrictions reducing normal exposure to diseases, and the massive reduction in doctors (especially GPs) seeing patients.
The three issues highlighted here today should be dominating the public debate. It is not that they never appear in the media (all of these issues were reported in the Telegraph) but they are now often behind newspaper paywalls and rarely picked up and given the prominence they deserve by the broadcasters. Without making it into news bulletins across the radio and TV channels the public consciousness does not become ‘critical’ and the issue loses momentum and becomes forgotten.
We, however, shall not forget and will keep raising the issues so they remain pertinent. If any of our supporters would like to write about these issues – or others they know of, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we might publish more information that is not receiving the coverage it deserves.
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Brian Monteith is a former member of the Scottish and European Parliaments and managing editor of the Recovery blog.
Photo by Seventyfour from Adobe Stock.