Boris Johnson’s defenders are keen to insist that their leader got all the “big decisions” right, especially when it came to coronavirus. What a ludicrous declaration.
Since the start of the pandemic, almost 200,000 people in Britain have died with Covid. That’s around 25 percent more than died in France, which has a similar size population.
From the very start Johnson was in denial about coronavirus. He and his ministers were convinced that letting the disease spread unhindered would lead to “herd immunity”.
They understood that would mean some people would die. But overwhelmingly they would be old and already sick. “Economically productive” people would simply get over Covid as they get over the flu.
But Covid is not flu. It kills far more people and spreads far more quickly. The Tory approach meant the Britain was late to lockdown, which in turn helped spread infections and death.
As hospitals filled with seriously ill Covid patients it was clear there was a devastating shortage of PPE protective equipment. The government had been warned of this in 2019, but had decided to ignore the problem.
In a panic, ministers opened a “VIP lane” for entrepreneurs with Tory connections. Anyone of them that could buy up more stocks of PPE was invited to offer their services. An array of spivs lined up to supply enormous quantities of equipment, but without proper technical checks and at vastly inflated prices.
Meanwhile, NHS staff – particularly black and Asian NHS staff – went without PPE, or were forced to improvise using bin bags.
Despite Tory claims to have thrown a “protective ring” around care homes, the opposite was true. At the height of the first wave of infections, before any vaccines existed, NHS bosses were ordered to discharge elderly hospital patients into care homes.
Thousands were transferred without being tested for Covid and so went on to seed the disease in one home after another. According to an MP’s inquiry, this led to “many thousands” of avoidable deaths.
In a bid to slow Covid’s spread, the government announced its “Test and Trace” system. Johnson celebrated it as “world beating”. But the system was chaotic from the start, relying on private sector rogues with a well-earned reputation for ripping off the public.
Tracing from remote call centres failed to track the way Covid spread locally, and could not anticipate likely infection hotspots. That was something best suited to area public health authorities, but after years of underfunding, they were in no fit shape to take up the task.
Test and trace failed to stop the spread of infections, but it wasn’t a total disaster. Its £37 billion pound bill meant firms, such as Serco, could turn in massive profits.
Johnson points to Britain’s vaccination programme as proof of his success. It’s true that the programme managed to jab millions of people in a very short period. But the early success of the plan owed nothing to the Tories.
It was foremost a reflection of the dedication of the scientists that worked at breakneck speed to develop a viable vaccine. And of the NHS staff that made it work on the ground.
Thousands of health workers worked countless extra hours to ensure the jabs got in people’s arms – and the thanks they got for that is a run of below-inflation pay rises.
After 18 months, Britain lags behind the European field in the percentage of the population that is vaccinated. Now many thousands of older and more vulnerable people are unprotected as we enter a new wave of infections. Plans for an autumn booster progress at a snails’ pace.
The new wave of Covid today hitting Britain can thank the Tories for the easy ride it’s having.
In February this year, Johnson abolished all Covid restrictions and told people to stop working from home and return to offices. He dubbed the end of compulsory mask wearing in certain high-risk settings as “Freedom Day”.
The government instruction was issued just as it became clear that a new, more infectious, omicron variant was spreading fast. And by now no one was surprised by the government’s failures.
At every stage, Johnson has put both his own political needs and those of the profit-makers above keeping the public safe. The price for that failure can be measured in many ways—including unnecessary deaths, long Covid, and thousands of broken health workers. It is also the reason why so many millions of people will never again trust a word that comes from Johnson’s mouth.
Keep up pressure on the streets
They targeted the Egyptian embassy
But it’s only a change of language