Throughout the pandemic, few things have been certain but Devi Sridhar’s omnipresent opining is one of them. The Scottish Covid advisor has rarely been off our screens during the pandemic, becoming something of a pin-up girl to the SNP for her repeated jibes at the Westminster government, her demands for more power which Holyrood already had and her effusive praise for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘wise words’ and ‘strong leadership’. Not to mention of course her suggestion that an independent Scotland would have done better against Covid.
The appointment of a new UK Health Secretary in Sajid Javid offered Sridhar a fresh target to aim at. In an article for the Mail on Sunday, Javid explained his thinking on unlocking Britain, writing that: ‘No date we choose will ever come without risk, so we have to take a broad and balanced view. We are going to have to learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to cope with it – just as we already do with flu.’
Such a statement proved to be manna from heaven for the Edinburgh academic. An enraged Sridhar took to Twitter to upbraid Javid for ‘Saying COVID is like flu. Same position 18 months into the pandemic.' She went on to myth-bust such an analogy, declaring: ‘We didn’t have to vaccinate the entire adult population against flu, or do mass community testing, or have lockdowns bc [because] hospitals full. I don’t understand this analogy.’
Steerpike cannot help but notice that Javid didn't actually say Covid is like the flu or even imply Covid is like the flu, just something we also have to learn live with – a distinction most fair-minded readers would surely accept. Indeed Chris Whitty made virtually the same comment three months ago, explaining: ‘It is not flu, it is a completely different disease, but the point I am making is, here is a seasonal, very dangerous disease that kills thousands of people every year and society has chosen a particular way around it.’
— Prof. Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) July 4, 2021
👇🏼 New UK health minister saying COVID is like flu. Same position 18 months into the pandemic. 😩 We didn’t have to vaccinate the entire adult population against flu, or do mass community testing, or have lockdowns bc hospitals full. I don’t understand this analogy. https://t.co/2w15dwpuYE
Moreover, it was just five weeks ago that an article appeared in the Guardian by one Devi Sridhar headlined: ‘In rich countries, vaccines are making Covid-19 a manageable health issue’ which argued, ‘‘barring a horrific new variant, rich countries such as Britain and the US may be within months, if not weeks, of what their citizens will see as the end of the pandemic.’ Mr S fails to see how such an attitude can be fully squared with such castigation of Javid’s own comments of living with the virus.
It has not escaped Steerpike’s attention that this spat come on the same weekend Scotland was christened Europe’s ‘Covid capital’ with the country now boasting six of the top ten regions for most case studies including Tayside, Greater Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Lothians. What was Sridhar's explanation? ‘In some ways, Scotland is a victim of its success – fewer people had the virus in the first and second waves so it has more opportunities to jump now’ she told the Sunday Telegraph, adding ‘Now we have got to get vaccinating as quickly as we can.’
Ironically of course the vaccination efforts have not been helped by Sridhar’s own comments back in March when she claimed the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab does not work against the South African variant – a point she has failed to be challenged on in her many television appearances since. With Scotland now appearing to be doing just as bad, if not worse, than the UK as a whole, surely some media bookers might like to ask Sridhar why her government is doing so badly the next time she lays into Westminster.
Given the professor's claims in June 2020 that ‘Scotland is on track to eliminate coronavirus by the end of the summer’ Steerpike would love to know, 12 months on, what has changed. It can't all be those dastardly Manchester tourists, can it?