Wednesday, 30 June 2021

The ten mistakes of Boris Johnson's government that cost tens of thousands of lives

Matt Hancock has gone and we have a new health secretary. Boris Johnson has been briefing that he wants to draw a line under Hancocks reign and move on. But the buck never stopped with Matt Hancock. It stopped with Boris Johnson. He chaired the COBRA committee (when he could be bothered to attend). He was Hancock's boss. When there was good news it was him who fronted the conference (when there was bad news it was 'rent a stooge Hancock who generally got the gig). 

His government presided over the worst death rate for a major nation last year. This could have been avoided. I thought I'd list the grave errors of his government that lead to us having a 50% higher death rate than Germany. 

1. Johnson didn't bother attending COBRA meetings in the earliest days of the pandemic, this caused drift and meant that he was late to the game in his understanding the severity of the crisis.

2. When it was clear that the disease was deadly Boris did not close down air travel between hotspots and the UK (Primarily China and Italy).

3. As well as failing to close down air travel, there was no requirement for anyone returning from these places to self isolate or even have their temperature taken before or after boarding a plane. Thios point and the previous point meant that the disease entered the UK completely unhindered.

4. When it was clear that the disease was running rampant, Boris dithered for a week. If he'd have locked down a week earlier, every single study has shown we'd have had a minimum of 10-15,000 less deaths.

5. There was no attempt at all to prevent the disease entering the care home network. The most vulnerable people in the country, those most likely to get seriously ill and die, were recklessly and negligently exposed to the disease as people with infections returned from hospitals. 

6. There was no protocol to separate carers who had been exposed to the disease from carers and patients who were vulnerable in the early days of the crisis.

7. The government lied to the nation that face coverings were ineffective in slowing the spread of the disease. This was done to protect the NHS stockpile. This meant that when they changed the advice, many people simply didn't believe them. 

8.  When Dominic Cummings did his trip to Barnard Castle, he wasn't instantly sacked. This undermined the unity of the nation in fighting the disease and made a significant minority say "If they won't follow the rules, then neither will I". This meant that lockdown observance would never be as effective again.

9. Boris Johnson and his Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched the 'Eat Out To Help Out" scheme, without a vaccination programme in place and without tying it to use of the highly costly NHS App. I believe that if people had needed to 'check in'  on the App to get the discount, then the scheme may have been of some use, but all it did was pour petrol on the cooling embers of the fire.

10. When it was clear that the Indian Variant was rampant, he repeated the mistake of last February and March and was late in imposing travel restrictions.  Fortunately this has not lead to the same number of deaths as the first mistake, but that is completely down to luck.

None of these points are hindsight, they are statements of the bleeding obvious. The government needs to be properly held to account for these appalling failures. Sacking Matt Hancock for snogging his secretary in the broom cupboard in no way atones for the abject failure. If Boris was an honourable man, he'd have stood down long ago. 

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