Covid 14  - A Change of Mind

21 August, 2020

Most weeks I do a press conference with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, reporting back on what's happening in the city-region with the Coronavirus, and what we are doing about it. Quite often we will say different things to what we have said in previous weeks and rightly so. This is not political prevarication, or worse still, dishonesty. We are learning new things about the virus every week and the way it impacts on our communities also changes. As our knowledge improves and circumstances change, our response to the crisis also needs to change.

It is still very much a crisis. Covid-19 is still in general circulation in the UK. But the nature of the crisis is also changing. Although there has been a general rise in positive tests, hospital admissions are down, people with Covid in intensive care is down, people are not contacting there GP or calling 111, and most importantly very few people are now dying. At the same time, as a result of Covid, tens of thousands of people have had operations and other treatments postponed or delayed, presentations of people with mental health issues (most a consequence of lockdown) have soared, as has the number of people suffering from the state of the economy.

I've become increasingly concerned that Health Ministers are looking at the health crisis purely through the narrow window of Covid-19, and not more broadly through the whole range of Covid related issues that will now probably have a far greater impact on people's life expectancy and well-being. We have to continue to take sensible measures particularly around hygiene and social distancing. We have to protect our citizens who are more vulnerable. We have to be ready for the potential of more deadly outbreaks as we head towards winter.

However, with what we know now, we also need a new, more balanced and proportionate approach, one that brings into play mental health and other health risks including those caused by poverty and economic inactivity, and one that allows the economy to fully function.

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