Enough Is Enough

The UK has now got the worst Covid death rate in the entire world with over 100,000 Covid deaths and the figure still rising very quickly. Since the start of the most recent lockdown in early January, on most days we have seen over 1,000 deaths. The sad and astonishing fact is that Covid has caused 30,000 more UK deaths than the total number of civilians killed in World War 2.

There’s another worrying reality to consider. During the first 11 months of the pandemic, up until 11 November, there had been 50,000 Covid-related deaths whereas, after only a further 76 days, the number of deaths doubled.

The low infection and death rates in Australia, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam give a clear illustration that the unacceptable rates in the UK are an entirely avoidable human catastrophe caused by the failure of our government’s response. All of these countries have tried to eliminate the virus through a ZeroCovid approach and have been far more successful than those that have tried to suppress it. If we had done the same, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved.

Astonishingly, despite the successes of these countries, Matt Hancock has said that the UK will not be pursuing a ZeroCovid strategy. “It is impossible for any country to deliver a zero-Covid strategy,” he said. “No country in the world has delivered that, including the ones that have aimed at it.”  Though it is true that no country has achieved total elimination, Australia, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam have together had a total of only 7,200 deaths during the total period of the pandemic — the UK has had more deaths than that during the last week of January 2021!

New Zealand and Australia share a total population of just over 30 million and have had only 934 deaths between them (30 January 2021) whereas the UK, with a population of 68 million have had 105,571 (30 January 2021). That takes some explaining! Perhaps Matt Hancock is as bad at understanding numbers as he is at faking tears. If achieving ZeroCovid was important to the Government, they’d find a way, as it appears not to be, they instead find excuses.

The Worst of Prime Ministers At the Worst of Times

The only conclusion to be reached is that Boris Johnson and his inept government are wholly responsible for all that has gone wrong. Johnson actually missed the first five Cobra meetings (which he is supposed to chair), took holidays in Mustique and Cheveney during the critical period of December to early February 2020, presided over negligent delays in activating a lockdown, failed to provide an underfunded NHS with PPE, over-promised and under-delivered an effective test, track and trace operation and wasted millions on crony contracts that were awarded to Tory Party donors without the usual safeguarding processes of competitive tendering!

At a time when we should have been in lockdown in March 2020, Johnson boasted of shaking hands with Covid patients, attended a Six Nations rugby match along with 82,000 spectators and allowed the Cheltenham Festival to go ahead with 251,684 racegoers in attendance across the four days of the Festival. In April 2020 it was reported that at least 105,000 passengers a week were flying into the UK without screening checks on their medical condition or quarantine requirements.

Incredibly, on 27 April the delusional Boris Johnson said the UK was seeing “apparent success” in the fight against coronavirus,  Johnson said, “There will be many people looking now at our apparent success and beginning to wonder whether now is the time to go easy on those social distancing measures.” He added: “If this virus were a physical assailant, an unexpected and invisible mugger, which I can tell you from personal experience it is, then this is the moment when we have begun together to wrestle it to the floor.” At this point the UK had the third highest deaths from the virus in the world. Johnson’s words are about as useful as his signature in water!

The failures of the Government continue to come thick and fast: they ignore scientific advice, we still have a truly hopeless test, track, trace and contact system, we had the ridiculously negligent Eat Out To Help Out scheme when a Scotch Egg became a substantial meal and the irresponsible relaxation of restrictions over Christmas when it was obvious to all that this would propel us into a deep crisis.

Johnson’s half-hearted expressions of remorse, empty apologies and pained facial expressions can’t alleviate the acute sorrow of the thousands of grief-stricken families who have suffered bereavements. Make no mistake, when he said that he was sorry about the deaths, he was not apologising for his mistakes or accepting any measure of responsibility for misjudgements. He very recently said, “We did all we could”. Unbelievable!

The latest revelation is that the SAGE scientists warned Johnson a full two weeks before news of more mutations, on 2 February, that tougher measures were required to control new Covid variants and that,  reactive, geographically targeted” travel bans wouldn’t be enough. When Johnson announced that limited hotel quarantine would apply for travellers from only 30 ‘red list’ countries, he had been in possession of this advice for a whole week. SAGE advised, ”no intervention, other than a complete, pre-emptive closure of borders, or the mandatory quarantine of all visitors upon arrival in designated facilities, irrespective of testing history, can get close to fully preventing the importation of new cases or new variants.” Johnson’s incompetence now means that we could be further exposed to new mutations that could seriously undermine the vaccine. Throughout this crisis, he has repeatedly failed to follow the science or reacted much too late.

So there we have it! We are burdened with the worst leader of the worst government at the worst of times.  This is a Tory Government characterised by a liberal aversion to state intervention, an obstinate obsession with free-market fundamentalism and a laughable belief in British exceptionalism.

As Richard Burgon recently wrote, “This failure to pursue a ZeroCovid plan goes well beyond Tory incompetence. It’s rooted in the domination of neoliberalism at the heart of the British State, entrenched over the past four decades. When the state needs to act in a crisis, it turns first to failing corporate giants whose role is profit maximisation, not the social good. This is the result of the ideological thinking that dominates the British capitalist class, as well as the cronyism of a self-serving elite, but it also reflects a reality of a state hollowed out by decades of privatisation and cuts.”

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