DEBUG: blog_post
Blind obedience to a pied piper
09 Mar, 2021

B J Smith wrote a blog entitled More UK-EU border cooperation please! Our reader Nick Heenan was compelled to respond.

Thank you for sending me this latest version of your Blog. Please accept one or two precisions to the views of B J Smith that you have just circulated.

Firstly, if a comparison with other “island nations” is made (such as Australia or New Zealand), the UK is well over a year late in supposedly “closing” its borders.

Or to be rather more precise, it has even now, not entirely closed its borders, but only established a “red list” of 30 or so countries, from which travellers arriving in the UK are required to spend 10 days in quarantine in a government-run hotel.

Everyone else can just “self-isolate” at home as before, and the rest of us can all trust in “Track and Trace” to make sure of that to keep us safe. Can’t we?

The choice of these latest “red-listed” countries is certainly not based purely on the science. It is equally based on the political and economic considerations of the UK government. Why else are the USA and India (to name but two obvious cases) missing from the Red-Listed countries? Why are more lenient measures put in place for incoming politicians, businessmen and road-hauliers, if not because of their assumed importance to the UK economy?

Secondly, the South African variant is so named because the first-rate virologists that happened to work in the South African health service managed to identify a new strain of Covid-19. The rest of the world talks much more about the dangers of the UK-variant of Covid that has caused the infection and death rate here to be far higher than in almost all other countries.

We know these as the Kent variant and the Bristol variant, because our own virologists working in those regions were clever enough to identify these new strains. We should not be surprised therefore, if travellers arriving in other countries from the UK are singled out for “special quarantine restrictions” in the months ahead, just as we have done.

Yes, the South African variant seems to be more infectious, and yes (at least according to a very small study based on only 2000 younger patients) it may be that our present vaccines are less effective at preventing infections of the SA variant.

But even this unreliable study did not even attempt to measure the number of serious illness cases resulting from such infections; only that a higher percentage of people (within that small sample of young people) had tested positive for Covid 19 after vaccination. We simply don’t know whether the SA variant results in a higher percentage of serious illnesses resulting from Covid. The study did not measure this. So is the SA variant more dangerous than the UK Variant?

I don’t think so - and here’s why:

My family and I spent six weeks in South Africa over the Christmas and New Year period, to escape the worst of the UK’s third wave (which was particular severe in London). Our stay in South Africa coincided with the peak of their own second wave of infections. Needless to say we were being very careful, and closely comparing the two governments’ published statistics and changing lockdown rules, both here and there.

South Africa has a population that is comparable in number with that of the UK, but spread out over a geographic area that is the size of the entire EU. Their total death rate from Covid has been less than half that of the UK. Yet the “BAME” population in South Africa must be over 95%! The percentage of people admitted to hospital with Covid in South Africa has been rather low, yet the percentage of those making a full recovery from Covid is far higher than here. The South African government was also able to lift its strictly-enforced lockdown restrictions far earlier than here.

From this I conclude that South Africa has been – and remains - a far safer country than the UK as far as both the risk of, and consequences of getting infected with Covid are concerned.

Does this justify all of the bad-publicity South Africa receives from the UK Media and Government, when no-one its talking about the USA and India? No it certainly does not.

But how convenient it is for the government to be able to blame a third country on the other side of the world, rather than have the British public focus on the shortfalls of its own policies. And how convenient it will be in the months/years ahead to blame the pandemic for all of the economic havoc and damage being caused by Brexit.

You should draw your own conclusions on all of this of course.

But personally I would always conduct my own fact-finding research and form my own balanced view of reality, rather than blindly trust in the statements made by a single country’s government as being entirely truthful or complete - let alone the distortions of these statements that are introduced by the media. In a global pandemic, context and cross-comparison is everything.

We Brits have some serious lessons to learn about trust and confidence, and on how to earn them.

I for one am not a lemming, nor am I happy to be led over the cliff edge through my own blind obedience to a pied piper.

Nick Heenan

London4Europe blogs are edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.