“In critical situations, Yoga and Ayurveda-driven community immunity plans are better than open-ended herd immunity.”

Amit Ray (Author of Yoga, The Science of Well Being) 

It's clear that the United Kingdom pandemic strategy is aiming for herd immunity by the winter, although no one likes to use those words. Having achieved the highest possible vaccination rates by persuasion, ‘freedom’ means unleashing the virus on carefree anti-vaxers: so that real infections can result in some resistance where artificial immunity has been turned down.

This is probably unavoidable in terms of Government policy - we can't stay locked up forever. But it is also really dangerous at an individual level, for those who can't - or won’t - be ‘jabbed’.

So in this commentary we advocate maintaining a high level of caution - social distancing, masks, and working from home where possible - and we suggest that it really is time for young people to get vaccinated.

We have generally tried to steer clear of too much Covid comment over the past months: the bias towards domestic health issues is already so heavy in the rest of the media, particularly on BBC television.

However, 19th July does mark a turning point from Government compulsion to individual responsibility, and that's an important stage. We are strong advocates of individual responsibility and control: but, as we've seen at the Euro football finals, the swing from one to the other is not leaving much space for adjustment to the new freedoms.

And the BBC, to their credit, is showing clearly the dangers of infections. The impact of long Covid is really severe - why should people risk jeopardising so much of their early adulthood?

But if they won't be vaccinated, then the Government would much rather see infections rise now than in the depths of winter, when the NHS would be under serious pressure.

Of course, the international ‘elephant in the room’ is the impact of the United Kingdom as a super spreader par excellence. The pressure to take the brakes off travel is huge, and yet many of the countries to which people want to go have much lower rates of vaccination than us.

So, while we may grade other countries as ‘red’ or ‘amber’, you can be sure that we will be similarly graded until this immense ‘herd immunity’ experiment is worked through.

Will it work, anyway? The answer to that question lies in the emergence of new variants. If their impact is modest and can be tackled by the major vaccines, then it probably will work. but if a new variant emerges which undermines our hard-won immunity, all hell will break loose again this winter. We should remember that Spanish flu took 2-3 years to work its way out of the system: we've only had Covid for eighteen months so far.

Ministers are keen to remind us that there's a balance to be drawn between damage to people's livelihoods and the economy, and damage to their health - and deaths. They are, of course, right on a grand scale. But at the individual level everyone now has the freedom to choose where to draw their own balance, and that's not just for ourselves - we are also drawing that balance on behalf of others, often in considerably more exposed positions than ourselves.

For the sake of abstaining for a few more months from unnecessary risks of infection, let's not be part of causing chaos and distress for others.

In contrast to the Spanish flu epidemic, we've had some substantial benefits to see us through: not only in the high speed development of vaccines, but also in the massive benefit of technology to enable us to keep creativity and production ticking over.

The weekend before last, nearly 400 people experienced Zoom overload at the General Synod of the Church of England: 33 hours of screen time over just 3.5 days. It was the last ‘group of sessions’ in this extended quinquennium, and there was a lot of business to put through.

The Church is one of the organisations which faces huge challenges in the years ahead, as we read in the Telegraph last week. The pace of change in modern life leaves no room for inertia, which comes easily within the Church with its complicated structures. It is but one organisation of many which must accept considerable change, if it is to survive and thrive as the vehicle which carries the Christian faith from generation to generation.

Much of this change must come through digital and broadcasting communication, and we are fortunate to have a British leader in this respect in the form of Premier Christian Radio.

So, whether in person, business or faith, we must continue to draw benefit from our new ways of working and, if we remain cautious in the months ahead, we'll see this challenge through without serious long-term handicap.

Gavin Oldham OBE

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