As a Christian leader I am compelled to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Defend the rights of all those who have nothing. Speak up and judge fairly. Defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)
Therefore, I have written to the UK’s Prime Minister about the unprecedented use of lockdowns in the UK and around the world, regarding the worrying potential trend of them becoming a part of our annual response to growing winter crisis. It is time to invest in the NHS (The UK’s National Health Service).
Do feel free to send this to your MP if you agree with its sentiment, or use any part of it to develop a letter of your own. Sources for all the statistics are at the bottom of this document.
21st January 2021
Dear Prime Minister Johnson
Firstly, let me commend you and your team for the excellent roll-out of the COVID vaccination program so far. It has been nothing short of outstanding and has brought a welcome comfort and a glimmer of hope this winter.
I am writing to encourage you to do everything you can to end the use of lockdowns as quickly as is safely and humanly possible, and to invest in the NHS in such a way that we never have to return to their use again.
The specific effects of 2020’s unprecedented lockdowns, in addition to the grief caused by COVID-19 itself, have been powerful in the last 10 months:
Globally, government actions as a result of the pandemic were predicted by the UN World Food Program to push 135 million people into severe hunger and starvation (1), while UNICEF and others predicted up to 100 million adults and children would be pushed into extreme poverty. (2) The Lancet reported there could be as many as 1.1 million additional child deaths (3) and interrupted immunization programs put 80 million children at risk of contracting deadly diseases. (4) Startlingly, UNICEF expects that global attempts to contain the pandemic could result in the deaths of 6,000 0–5 year-olds, daily. Globally, the international community must find a better tool than harsh Lockdowns.
In the UK one mental health charity has seen a 300% increase in calls to its helpline since the start of the pandemic (6) while 48% of the UK’s post-lockdown child suicide deaths, related to Covid-19 or lockdown. (7) Also in the UK, thousands of children are now at potential risk of abuse and exploitation in unregulated care homes, (8) 80% of young people said the pandemic made their mental health worse (9), 1 in 6 children developed a probable mental disorder, (up from 1 in 9), (10) and many entire families, it was claimed, were being “swept into poverty” by the pandemic. (11)
Professor Philip Thomas of Bristol University estimated that the equivalent of 560,000 UK lives will be lost because of the “health impact of the deep and prolonged recession.” (12)
GP Online reported that a total of 30,260 excess deaths occurred in private homes in 2020, but less than 1 in 10 were due to COVID-19, my worry being that people are not attending A&E out of fear or to protect the NHS. (13) Online domestic abuse searches increased 352.5% (14), depression and suicidal thoughts rose 26.1% (15) and loneliness and isolation were affecting 9 million in the UK (16). Cancer Research UK found that 1 in 3 cancer patients’ treatment has been affected and 70% of patients said their mental health suffered. Cancer screening was cancelled for 3 million, (17) it is thought that 600,000 women missed their smear tests, (18) and excess deaths from heart disease rose 13% (19). Kings College London states that a third of the population increased their alcohol intake and 35% postponed seeking medical advice or treatment, a move some believe will lead to a rise in medium term deaths from undiagnosed terminal illnesses. (20)
In 2020 the jobless rate in the UK rose to 6.5% (21), retail sales were the ‘worst for 25 years’ (22) and it was also the worst year for High Street job losses in the same period (23).
I think we all know by now that predictions and statistics are varied in their usefulness, but if even half the predictions and findings above reach full fruition, it would eclipse all but the most major of atrocities in the last century.
Why I am writing is to encourage you to invest in the NHS as never before. Fulfil the bus slogans of 2016, increase bed numbers which have been falling while the population has grown, give nurses a pay rise, quickly fill the tens of thousands of missing NHS posts using the new points-based immigration system. Do all you can to ensure that the addition of COVID to our usual annual health crisis doesn’t push us back into lockdown each winter. In fact, why not fix the winter health crisis once and for all and become remembered as the leader who transformed this precious institution, rather than normalise the pain and additional deaths caused by lockdowns every winter.
Though I have much sympathy with your current predicament, in the long term it cannot be the role of the population to protect the NHS. It is the role of government to invest in the NHS, so they have all they need to protect the population. By historical standards, COVID is a comparatively mild epidemic, therefore we must be fully prepared for harsher outbreaks in years to come. 2020 proved that we were simply not ready.
Be assured of my prayers and sympathies in this difficult time. I realise there are no easy answers, but I urge you to carefully invest, so that damaging lockdowns are never used again.
Reverend Jarrod Cooper
(Senior Minister of Revive Church, Hull & East Yorkshire, writing in my capacity as a concerned private citizen).
- (BMJ/UN World Food Program) https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4263
- (UN website/World Bank/Unicef/Save The Children) https://www.un.org/development/desa/dpad/publication/un-desa-policy-brief-86-the-long-term-impact-of-covid-19-on-poverty/
- (Lancet/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(20)30229-1/fulltext
- (New York Times/WHO/UNICEF/Vaccine Alliance) https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/22/health/coronavirus-polio-measles-immunizations.html
- (UNICEF) https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/covid-19-devastates-already-fragile-health-systems-over-6000-additional-children
- (BBC) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-55710468
- (National Child Mortality Database ) https://www.ncmd.info/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/REF253-2020-NCMD-Summary-Report-on-Child-Suicide-July-2020.pdf
- (Young Minds) https://youngminds.org.uk/about-us/reports/coronavirus-impact-on-young-people-with-mental-health-needs/
- (NHS) https://digital.nhs.uk/news-and-events/news/survey-conducted-in-july-2020-shows-one-in-six-children-having-a-probable-mental-disorder
- (GP Online) https://www.gponline.com/gps-urge-government-consider-indirect-covid-19-harms-lockdown-decisions/article/1696300
- (Samaritans) https://www.samaritans.org/news/new-study-reveals-mental-health-impact-initial-lockdown-period/?fbclid=IwAR0mNcWtUe0w7Rszu_Rc71FwG3nbyND-VS8CKBxMcvtVDC6zOV2hqnGsIs8
- (Age UK/Mind). https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/silent-epidemic-hit-nine-million-23291390
- (Cancer Research UK) https://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2020/09/11/whats-happened-to-cancer-services-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/
- (Caroline Nokes MP) https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9155363/Fears-600-000-women-risk-cervical-smear-tests-cancelled-missed-lockdown.html
- (British Heart Foundation) https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/news-from-the-bhf/news-archive/2020/october/rise-in-excess-heart-and-circulatory-disease-deaths-in-under-65s
- (Kings College London) https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/nearly-a-third-of-uk-public-drinking-more-alcohol-than-usual-during-the-pandemic
- (SKY News) https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-boe-governor-about-2-2-million-unemployed-in-very-difficult-period-for-economy-12185707
- (BBC) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-55625246
- (BBC) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-55501049