Food and Drink Editor Cara-Louise Scott discusses the official Coronavirus report, arguing that the Government needs to be held accountable for their actions

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The COVID pandemic started 19 months ago, yet sometimes I question how far we have really come, and how well the Government actually handled the situation. The official COVID report, ‘lessons learned to date,’ which was published on 12 October, confirms what many of us already felt – that the Government’s attempts to approach the Coronavirus pandemic was one massive failure. 

Many lives – 162,620 (as of 21st October 2021) – have been lost to COVID. Due to the Governments hesitancy to implement lockdown in March 2021, the ever-changing rules that not everyone would follow, the lack of support and funding for the NHS, and the general failure of the track and trace program, the Government has failed the people they’re supposed to care about the most: us. While we must acknowledge that some of these deaths would have been accountable to underlying health issues, the vast numbers suggest that this is not a feasible argument for all deaths.

The Government has failed the people they’re supposed to care about the most: us

The 150-page Parliamentary report, which was published by the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, draws on evidence from more than 50 witnesses, including former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, as well as drawing on more than 400 written submissions. It examines six key areas of the response to COVID-19, which include pandemic preparedness, lockdowns and social distancing, testing and contact tracing, social care, At-risk communities, and the vaccine. 

The report acknowledges that the NHS responded ‘quickly and strongly’ to the demands of the pandemic, but that the UK procedures for future risks focused too much on the flu rather than coronavirus diseases, and the register said ‘the likelihood of an emerging infectious disease spreading within the UK is assessed to be lower than that of a pandemic flu.’ 

The report confirms that during the beginning of the pandemic, the UK followed the wrong policy of herd immunity rather than a lockdown and social distancing. Government policy did not deviate from scientific advice but the fact that their approach went between scientific advisors and the Government tells us that they were blinded by ‘a degree of groupthink’ in that their approaches were taken elsewhere instead of focusing on an earlier lockdown and border control. I think that while earlier lockdowns may not have been the answer, at least some form of restrictions on social contact and mobility around the country were necessary. It is hard to say how the Government would have handled it if they had a better plan in the place, but if they had a coronavirus plan in place for if anything like this was to have happened, things may have turned out differently.

It is hard to say how the Government would have handled it if they had a better plan in the place

The report even goes on further to say that the idea that the public would only comply with severe restrictions for a limited time, and that it shouldn’t be applied before it was most needed. This should have been challenged earlier, as it has been confirmed that suppressing the spread in the early days would have given the Government more valuable time to consider the best way to manage the pandemic.

Furthermore, the Government guidance on the tier system has been branded ‘complex’ and hard to understand, while the NHS Test and Trace fell short of the expectations set for it. As a result, the UK lost visibility of where the disease was spreading most because of the low levels of testing in the early period of the pandemic. The Government should have made testing more widespread so we could monitor hot spots and better contain the virus.  MP’s have said it is ironic that the UK finally has a good test and trace system at the point where the vaccination programme has made testing less needed than it was previously. 

While this information from the report is now public knowledge, Boris Johnson and the Government are facing little repercussions other than media backlash, which has had little effect on the Government anyway – other than losing some public support.  If you put all this together, it sounds like the Government has pretty much failed in keeping us safe and alive, and yet, where is their punishment? 

The only positive thing to come out of this is the fact that as of 1st September 2021, 80% of the adult population has been vaccinated, and we can argue that the Government, out of everything, has handled the vaccination roll out considerably well, and now boosters are being rolled out too. Yet, the fact that many people are still getting ill with COVID despite having the vaccine, and the fact it has a short-lasting rate with boosters needed, shows that everything is still not as well organised as it should be.

Boris Johnson is still sitting cosy in his Prime Minister position and no one seems too bothered that there aren’t any repercussions for all the damage they have caused; there have been a multitude of mistakes before we got to the position we’re in today. I think the Government needs to be dealt with thoroughly due to their failure to keep us safe, and more should be done in punishing the Government through legal action, for example – perhaps even resignation. We need to ensure that this never happens again. 

I can’t say I trusted the Government much before the pandemic, but I certainly do not trust them now

I think it is interesting to look at the Guardian Cartoon that Ben Jennings created depicting the UK COVID response as it clearly paints us the idea that Boris sat around and did nothing note-worthy until the vaccine roll out. 

The fact that Matt Hancock, for example, was having an affair with his secretary and breaking COVID rules, should be enough of an eye opener on who is running our country. What about the scandal in May 2020, when Dominic Cummings was reported to have breached lockdown rules and travelled to Durham, while also experiencing COVID-19 symptoms? Johnson actually supported Cummings, and the police even said it was only a minor breach. However, we would have been fined if it was any of us and the scandal affected our trust in the Government even more so. I can’t say I trusted the Government much before the pandemic, but I certainly do not trust them now as it doesn’t feel like they really have our best interests at heart and they do not act fast enough.

It is telling that what we have really learned from the pandemic and this report is that the Government’s system has failed most of us, particularly the vulnerable, and that maybe we should put our trust somewhere else – not in the hands of Boris Johnson.

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