For decades successive Governments have recognised that a global pandemic was the biggest threat to our national security. Yet when faced with one, the government of the day was found wanting. Local Public Health Services had been critically weakened, and the National Health Service run down and demoralised.
At the start of the outbreak we didn’t know how quickly the virus would spread, but the manner in which the Chinese responded by locking down Wuhan, showed that they were assuming the worst. Meanwhile here we carried on as normal going to the shops, work, school or college. Thousands were encouraged to go and watch football, rugby and horse racing. People gathered for birthdays, concerts, weddings and funerals. Planes, trains and buses continued to carry people sat close to each other.
The government claimed to be “following the science”, but ignored centuries of public health “know how” in the management of infectious diseases. Last February, John Ashton, a former Regional Director of Public Health (see The Independent 12 March 2020) pressed for measures on social distancing and systems to test, trace and quarantine those who were or maybe infected. Later the work and recommendations of Independent Sage led by David King, a former Chief Scientific Advisor, and also by the Trade Unions, would be largely ignored by ministers and the media alike.
A total failure of leadership and government, a complicit media, an absent opposition, truth twisted, the wrong questions asked, pointless non answers given, infections multiplying, deaths increasing, the NHS on its knees, education and opportunity for the young evaporating. This is a national catastrophe of the government’s own making.
The United Kingdom could have avoided most of the infections and deaths, along with the ongoing health and financial crisis now facing millions. Countries in South East Asia demonstrated how the virus could be controlled, but few followed their lead.
|Cases and Deaths by |
23 March 2021
|Population (million)||Total Cases||Total Deaths||Deaths per 100,000|
Sources: Wikipedia and Worldometer
If our government had had the foresight to act as the Vietnamese did, and controlled the transmission of the virus as well as they have done, by now there would have been 1,798 cases (not 4,307,304) and just 24 deaths (not 126,284). COVID-19 was allowed to spread out of control causing suffering, death and economic carnage, because ministers failed to restrict movement and take effective action to test, trace and quarantine those infected.
The government, elected after a campaign of unparalleled disinformation, is now busy manufacturing consent that they “did everything they could” and “has nothing to apologise for”. We are living in a post truth society, and I despair for our future.
Ed: The residents of Kingswood in Gloucestershire were recently asked for their reflections on a year of lockdowns. This article is adapted from Bob’s reflections.