DR RENEE HOENDERKAMP: We cannot allow our country to become a draconian dystopia
The expected delay to the end of lockdown restrictions doesn’t just mean another month of compulsory masks and social distancing, the suspension of international travel and prolonged agony for the arts and hospitality sectors.
There is, I believe, now a very real danger that these infringements on ordinary, everyday life will continue not only the rest of the year but until next spring at least.
When mid-July is here, the cheerleaders for lockdown will be pointing to the expected autumn surge in Covid cases.
They will warn us that a few summer weeks of looser freedoms will lead to renewed viral outbreaks and will eventually trigger another full national shutdown.
And because half the summer will already have be gone by then and we will all have given up on any hope of weddings, parties and festivals, the nation will collectively bow its head and succumb.
NHS GP Dr Renee Hoenderkamp said that she does ‘not accept that there is any valid medical reason for carrying on with any level of lockdown that overrides the multiple compelling reasons for getting back to normal’
Already, we are so cowed and docile that no one is asking the obvious questions such as what is the point of these restrictions currently? Are they serving any positive purpose at all?
As a GP, I do not accept that there is any valid medical reason for carrying on with any level of lockdown that overrides the multiple compelling reasons for getting back to normal.
When rules were first imposed on social distancing and limiting indoor gatherings to just six people, the vaccine did not exist.
Whitehall’s aim was to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed by Covid.
Today, when half the population has already had both vaccine doses, there should be no danger that our hospitals will be unable to cope with the virus, even given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant.
But the NHS is being overwhelmed by the effects of lockdown itself. There are now a record-breaking 5.1million people on waiting lists – the worst situation in the 73-year history of the health service.
Every day I see patients in desperate need of hip and knee operations. When they ask me how long they might have to wait, I have to look them in the eye and say: ‘It could be years.’
And the medical repercussions of waiting two to three years for a joint replacement are serious and sometimes life-changing. Many such patients are in agony. They become depressed.
These patients might self-medicate with alcohol or painkillers. And unable to exercise, they will put on weight.
All this puts strain on other parts of their body.
It can lead to heart, liver and kidney disease along with other serious illnesses. And yet their primary problem is something that is easy to alleviate through routine surgery.
And what about those with life-threatening diseases, including heart disease and cancer, who have had screening or treatment delayed?
Or those who have yet to be diagnosed because of soaring waiting lists? And it is not only older people who are suffering. As full lockdown eased in April, A&E departments in hospitals across the country saw a 30 per cent increase in admissions for serious mental health problems, including self-harming and suicide attempts.
In my surgery I’ve seen an increase in mental health problems across all age groups.
Early data shows this is caused not by Covid itself but by the measures imposed by governments that were supposed to protect our health, not harm it.
In Germany, the findings of a study of 1,500 schoolchildren has suggested a high incidence of depression. Some of them had suffered Covid-19, some hadn’t – it made no difference.
What had impacted the children even more was the shock and upheaval of the past 15 months.
I don’t think the Government’s advisers have grasped this. Ironically, while ordering us all to shield from Covid, they have been shielded from the effects of their own policies.
The virus will continue to mutate and infect, but the vaccines should mitigate the seriousness of disease (stock picture)
They have not seen their own livelihoods wiped out nor lost their careers. They have been able to keep working and therefore they have avoided the effects of isolation and despair.
Buoyed by the obedience of a patient public, they have now forgotten that their immediate priority was to safe-guard the NHS. But now, in their determination to wipe out Covid, they are damaging the very institution they set out to protect – not to mention the millions of people who rely on the health service. The grim fact is that Covid cannot be completely extinguished. ‘Zero Covid’ is a fantasy.
The virus will continue to mutate and infect, but the vaccines should mitigate the seriousness of disease.
For a small percentage of cases, usually those with underlying health conditions such as renal failure and immune disorders, Covid will continue to cause serious infections even when patients have received both doses.
The Government needs to identify those at risk and help them to shield themselves, if that is what the vulnerable individuals want.
While the rest of us are at a different sort of risk, from lockdown itself.
We cannot allow this appalling and undemocratic travesty to continue and stand by as our country slides into a sort of draconian dystopia.
We must demand our NHS returns to full power. We must demand an end to the economic catastrophe and its devastating consequences. We must demand our freedoms back.
- Renee Hoenderkamp is an NHS GP
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