The sad fact that the UK is now the 5th worst country in the world for deaths from COVID-19, sadly comes as no surprise to me. Today, we learn that there have been over 100,000 deaths where COVID-19 is mentioned on the Death Certificate. I take no pleasure in telling you that I predicted this, early last year. Below are the facts as I see them:
The prime minister did not even attend the first five COBRA meetings (that’s Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms and crisis management centre.
As an island nation, it should have been easier for us to keep the virus out, compared to many other places. However, there were long delays in installing lock-downs, and they were stopped before the should have been. Apparently it was ok to go on “Business Trips”! I wasn’t aware that the virus differentiates between business and other travellers. I’ve successfully bought from Australia, but I’ve never been there. I suspect most of those trips were ill-advised and unnecessary (not to mention helping to damage the climate). If lock-downs are necessary, why not announce them “as from now”, rather than encouraging people to have last minute parties and meetings? It’s taken a year to try and finally do something properly about stopping visitors, and I am not sure how well it is being implemented or policed. This is in marked contrast to other countries, where there has been much less incidence of the virus (and the new variants).
The prime minister claimed they were fighting a war on an “Unknown Virus”. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East. Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). In 2019, UK ministers were warned of risks of coronavirus pandemic. A NSRA (National Security Risk Assessment) stated that we must have a robust plan to deal with a pandemic virus and its potentially catastrophic social and economic consequences in a confidential Cabinet Office briefing. According to this article in The Guardian: “The recommendations within it included the need to stockpile PPE (personal protective equipment), organise advanced purchase agreements for other essential kit, establish procedures for disease surveillance and contact tracing, and draw up plans to manage a surge in excess deaths”.
Incidentally, the prime minister’s continual references to “war” unhelpfully encouraged senseless panic buying and stockpiling.
The PPE shortages have caused no end of problems and deaths. I suspect an accountant, and not a clinician, recommended Just In Time buying of PPE for a cash-starved NHS -which is why stocks were so low in hospitals when the outbreak started.
Actions speak louder than words. The first COVID-19 death in the UK had already occurred in February 2020. On the 3 March 2020, the day that scientific advice was NOT to shake hands, the prime minister said he was “shaking hands with everyone”, even including those in COVID affected hospitals!
I am baffled as to why the Six Nations Rugby Championship was allowed to proceed during the outbreak. Worse still, the prime minister took his current pregnant girlfriend along to endorse it. The Jockey Club’s Cheltenham Horse Racing Festival was allowed to go ahead. Later on their Board Member, Baroness Dido Harding, was rewarded by being put in charge of the infamously bad Track and Trace service – despite having no relevant experience that I could see.
On the day the World Health Organisation declared a Global Pandemic, we permitted 3,000 Atlético fans to travel to watch their team in Liverpool, when their own stadium was closed to prevent the spread of the virus.
The government seemed hell-bent on trying a dangerous Herd Immunity experiment. Bizarrely the government stopped mass testing in March 2020.
Quite a few ministers seemed to break the rules. The Dominic Cummings affair had been well documented. What you permit, you promote comes to mind. Robert Jenrick travelled from his residence in London to a “second home” in Herefordshire during the lockdown . He then visited his parent’s house, a further 40 miles away. Even now, when we ought to be avoiding unnecessary journeys, the prime minister appears all over the place (pretending he’s Churchill on a battle field).
I was amazed how the House of Commons continued to operate, through most of the pandemic. What a stupid idea, bring people together from all over the country and packing them together in central London. The luddites in the house have failed to embrace video and web conferencing, and prefer to lay on pantomime performances in Wesminster. The House of Commons is not a vital part of democracy – the building can’t even house all its members. Watching MPs queuing for hours to vote just reminded me of silly school kids on an outing.
It is sad that the virus seems to have been spread by the rich, on business trips and skiing holidays etc. but it’s been the poor who have taken the brunt. When you look why, it is not surprising. If you live in poor cramped housing with many generations, it is more likely to spread. If you have a zero hours contract, and no savings, what do you do when your boss tells you to come to work in an unsafe factory?
The elderly are more susceptible to the virus. So why did the government permit the discharge of patients with coronavirus from hospitals to old people’s homes, where the inspection spread very rapidly (ironically filling the hospitals that they were trying to relieve)? A few years ago many old people were kept in council run homes, which have been closed down and the residents put in homes run by the private sector. These homes have struggled to cope. It would have been much easier to monitor matters, and distribute PPE etc. with large numbers in council care. Worst of all, some of these private care home employ staff on zero hours contracts. Some of these workers would go to two or three different care home (to make ends meet) and would be a reason for the virus spreading between homes.
The government continually claimed that they were “Following the Science”. I could see little evidence of that. The UK government has not listened to the recommendations of the World Health Organization for a long time. Ignoring the science and extending the gap between first and second vaccines may increase variants developing, we simply do not know. The government seem to be gambling, rather than following the science.
Prime Minister’s Question Time is particularly embarrassing. The prime minister rarely answers any questions, and seems to asks more opposition questions than he answers. I am not interested in party politics, and for the prime minister to keep unprofessionally referring to the leader of the opposition as “Captain Hindsight”, when that patently refers to himself, is bizarre. I suspect that Sir Keir Starmer has encountered many lying, blustering fools in his previous work as Director of Publications. He is, however, far too professional to call the prime minister “Major Disaster”.
I have found the televised briefing especially irritating. Again, why do we have to see MPs walking in with medial officers etc? It could all be done as a video conference. When Matt Hancock was telling us that there was no shortage of PPE, my friends (who are front line NHS workers) were telling me that that simply was not true. I suppose the briefings were a way to learn who the new cabinet was – “oh, that’s the one that his predecessor sacked” etc. etc.
I notice that the Prime Minister tends to do them when he perceives he has some good news to deliver. I have also noted that the carefully collected questions from “members of the public” never so much as have a note of censure. This is in marked contrast to the comments that I read at the same time on Social Media. These briefings are more like a party political broadcast. It was interesting to see how certain graphs were dropped when they failed to tell a good story and the way of measuring deaths was changed to get lower figures. The government clearly pander older voters (who are most likely to vote for them). The vaccination programme is impressive, but I resent them saying x,000 people have been vaccinated, when they have only had part of the dose.
Much emphasis was placed on the “R Rate”. This is the expected number of cases directly generated by one case in a population. If it’s above 1, the disease is growing exponentially. I do not believe it had significantly dropped below 1 when the first lock-down was ended.
Boris Johnson was keen to accuse the opposition of wanting to “Cancel Christmas”, and foolishly permitted households to meet up on Christmas Day. This will no doubt have helped to cause the huge rise in outbreaks in January, although the government is keen to park all the blame on new variants of the virus.
Opening schools after Christmas was another stupid idea. Opening for one day achieved little, apart from spreading the infection. If teachers had been given more notice, they could have made better plans for home learning.
The Oak National Academy is particularly poor. It seems to be various teachers doing a “death by PowerPoint”. I’ve watched a few, the teacher tells you to pause the presentation, and write the answer down, and then tells you there answer! Pupils will soon learn this, and not even better to pause the presentation. In this day and age, I would expect E-Learning to be interactive. Ask a question, and then provide feedback – depending on the answer given (“the reason why that answer is wrong is because” and “look at this, and contact me if you don’t understand”). More importantly it should be gamified and made into engaging fun (e.g. “here’s a problem, how are you going to solve it?”). Sadly I saw little evidence of that. It is ironical that this government would like to get rid of the BBC, BBC Bitesize is much better than the Oak Academy.
The National Health Service has been starved of cash for years . The United Kingdom, has far fewer physicians per population unit than many other countries. Countries like Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Slovenia all have more nurses per head of population than the UK. Significantly, the problem is getting worse as overseas staff have left the NHS following concerns about Brexit.
The government is very keen to boast about how much they are spending on the NHS. This is not surprising, we have an increasingly elderly population, being kept alive on expensive medication. However, as the NHS is quietly being privatised, more and more money seems to be going on administrators etc. rather than front line healthcare professionals. Hospitals built on the PFI initiatives have exasperated the problem, as increasing amounts of money is being diverted from the front line to pay for them.
I note that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, followed by Economics at Cambridge. Possibly not the best background for someone trying to control a pandemic, but helps to explain why the government has acted the way it has. Ironically, there are 10 members of parliament who are also doctors or medicine. We’ve heard very little from them…..
Just in case you think this government is sincere in its “Protect the NHS” message, having underfunded it for years, please watch the Sell Off film. It is a scandal how this has happened, without most of us even realising it.
In my opinion, we currently have the worst government in over sixty years. The Prime Minister, a man who in a previous job had been sacked for lying, seems rather keen to give his own (and in my view distorted) version of events. I am not surprised that he is anxious to postpone any inquiry. The deaths from COVID-19 were not inevitable, and many of them were preventable. Not to mention all the other deaths from untreated cancers etc. etc.