We need to shout about …….. Community choirs

No sooner are we past the so-called freedom day than the Johnson government finally starts believing in the vaccine programme, having systematically undermined it for the last two months by pretending that vaccinated people pose a risk, should not socialise, travel  and must be treated in the same way as those who have not been vaccinated. This makes a complete nonsense of the vaccination programme and has sent the message to vaccine ‘hesitants’ that there is therefore no point in getting the jab and maybe even that there is something bad about vaccines we aren’t being told. Quite why Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance have allowed themselves to be part of this anti-science strategy is a subject for another time.

I’ve enjoyed watching all those mostly young, male, football fans hugging each other and shouting their heads off over the  last few days, but bearing in mind that very few if any will have been vaccinated, what exactly is going on? – is this a social experiment in herd immunity? Perhaps so, and why not, as most, if not all, of them are very unlikely to be ill enough to need hospital if they do get infected. We do need to test the herd immunity hypothesis; and although it’s unfashionable I still believe it has an important role to play. Many middle and low income countries, which are unable to hoard vaccines far in excess of any possible requirements (e.g. UK and USA) are relying on herd immunity, and are doing a lot better than we are – that’s interesting.

There have been several sporting event pilot studies in England over the last few months but we have not seen the results of any of them, I wonder why that is? Possibly because the results are clear-cut and don’t fit the muddled and contradictory messaging from Ministers? What is very clear is that the current messaging strategy has far more to do with saving the Prime Minister’s political skin than with science.

For context, currently ten times more people are dying every day from alcohol-related diseases than from Covid.

Very belatedly the government is beginning to talk about allowing doubly vaccinated people to skip the returning traveller quarantine, whatever took them so long to catch on? Vaccination works and the data prove it, end of story.

Of course we don’t know every last detail of how long immunity induced by vaccination lasts and whether naturally acquired immunity might last longer, but one thing is for sure, a couple of dozen, mostly doubly-vaccinated OAPs meeting in a draughty community hall for a couple of hours once a week for choir practice do not constitute a risk; to themselves or anyone else, to the community or to the nation, so why are we still not allowed to sing?

I guess it’s because there are no juicy media contracts involved and no powerful lobbyists pushing things along. But community choirs serve a hugely beneficial social function, they provide significant community ‘glue’, low cost entertainment, contribute to local economies and are hugely important to mental health and wellbeing of participants. I don’t know how many community choirs there are, maybe 5,000? -each with 20-50 members, that’s an awful lot of people missing out on something of proven benefit for no purpose.

* Catherine Royce is a medical doctor and was previously PPC for Uxbridge (2001) and Romsey (2017). She is on the Liberal Democrat Women executive and currently a member of the Federal Policy Committee.