We knew pain of lockdown from the start: Chris Whitty admits Government knew that shutting the country down to contain Covid pandemic would have ‘very severe effects’ on some people’s health
- Professor Whitty warns Covid restrictions will affect livelihoods for years
- Levels of domestic abuse and loneliness have rocketed over the past 12 months
- Missed screenings could have ‘a significant effect on cancers detected later’
The devastating impact of the lockdown on the nation’s health was known from the start, Chris Whitty said yesterday.
England’s chief medical officer acknowledged the draconian measures have seen Britons drinking more alcohol and exercising less.
Levels of domestic abuse and loneliness have also rocketed over the past 12 months while missed health screenings and appointments could have ‘a significant effect on cancers being detected later’.
In yet another grim forecast, the professor said there would be ‘bumps and twists on the road ahead’ as a result of the emergence of new variants and possible shortages in vaccine supplies.
The devastating impact of the lockdown on the nation’s health was known from the start, Chris Whitty said yesterday (pictured)
He told the Local Government Association’s public health conference that government had known ‘right from the beginning the lockdown was going to have really severe effects on many people’s health’. He added: ‘For some people lockdown has either made no difference or in some cases – if you actually look at the academic literature and surveys – has even improved life, interestingly.
‘But for many people, physical or mental wellbeing have been very badly affected by this.
‘Ranging from increased levels of domestic abuse, loneliness – particularly in older people who felt very much isolated in their areas – physical health, people maybe exercising less, greater amounts of alcohol consumption.’
Professor Whitty warned that coronavirus restrictions would affect livelihoods for years with government able only to ‘reduce and not eliminate’ those effects.
He added: ‘There will be many people who were close to deprivation who will now have been shoved further into it by the effects of lockdown and all of the things we’ve had to do.
‘So there is going to be a very big job of work to do in terms of recovery and these are going to hit, in particular, people in their early working lives. These effects could, if we’re not very careful, be lifelong and that’ll be exacerbated by reductions in face-to-face learning in school and indeed in college, further education and universities, which are one of the most powerful engines for reducing deprivation over generations. So there’s going to be a long rain shadow to Covid.’
Regent Street completely deserted and empty due to covid outbreak, March 21 2020
Professor Whitty told last night’s No 10 press conference the number of patients in hospital with Covid was continuing to fall rapidly, thanks to lockdown and the success of the vaccine rollout.But he warned the chances of eradicating the virus were ‘close to zero’ amid signs of a further spike in infections and possible vaccine supply problems.
Both he and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientist, said variants were likely to cause problems and that the most vulnerable may need booster jabs by autumn to prevent a repeat of this winter. He said no one who understood infectious diseases believed eliminating them for any long period of time was a realistic prospect.
Sir Patrick agreed, saying the aim was to get infection numbers as low as possible. He added: ‘Don’t expect that this is going to disappear. Expect that there will be recurrences of infections particularly in winter and this will become a circulating virus as others have done over thousands of years.
‘Clearly today is a day to think about all the people who’ve died this year as a result of this terrible virus.
‘But also the people who suffered both physical and mental health and all of the consequences that come with that and the societal effects.’