Health Matters - By Matt Ashton

BLOG: Omicron – Inequalities and learning lessons

With confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Liverpool the highest they have ever been, Director of Public Health, Matt Ashton shares his thoughts on the latest wave and the lessons we’ve learned so far.

“It is clear that the Omicron wave is well and truly upon us in the North West, following the experiences of London and the South East.

Lots of people are off work sick, causing disruption to key services and the wider economy, and hospitalisations have jumped in the last week. Deaths will sadly follow.

This wave will be over quicker than previous waves, and although it’s a milder variant, it would be naive to assume it still isn’t going to leave a trail of destruction in its path.

This destruction will be greater in more deprived communities.

The impact of this wave of course is not just on people with Covid, but on those needing help and support for anything and everything else – a challenge that is already bigger in some areas.

The optimist in me says this could be the final hurrah for Covid-19, settling into endemicity afterwards – still with ongoing impact and loss of life, but becoming more manageable than the big waves we have experienced so far.

The pessimist in me then says we won’t truly know it’s the end until a few years afterwards.

This is after all a virus that has continued to surprise us all so far.

Lessons from history often serve us well. The 1918 flu pandemic lasted 2 years, 4 big waves, and with a likely 5th wave a year after the pandemic had finished.

Whatever the endgame is, a few things are clear to me. 

We have to get serious about addressing health inequalities both now and in the future, to address harms as a result of Covid-19 and to prevent harm from future pandemics.

We must take the time to learn the lessons properly from the last 2 years – what has worked, what hasn’t, and what needs improving.

We need to predict, prepare, prevent, respond to, and recover from pandemics of the future.

We also need to get better at engaging with our communities at both a local and national level – truly listening to and responding to marginalised groups.

Local often works better in my view, and we should be thankful for the brilliant public health teams across the country who have consistently stepped up to the challenge of this pandemic, alongside incredible health, care, emergency services, and the amazing voluntary, community and faith sectors.

Everyone is tired, oh so tired of this. And it will end, all pandemics end – but right now we are in the eye of the storm once again, so back to work it is, trying to keep our communities safe, and our economy working·

It takes a community to manage a pandemic, and we are all desperate to avoid future harmful lockdowns – so in the meantime, get vaccinated, get tested, be ‘Covid wise’ and be kind.”

*This was originally shared as part of a Twitter thread written by @DPH_MAshton

Liverpool Waterfront