Rishi Sunak is leading a charge to claim that the Tories were too thorough in their handling of Covid lockdowns. It is standing on its head the truth that Boris Johnson was too slow to introduce a lockdown and too quick to lift it. And it clears the way for the government to continue to ignore the death toll of Covid and the lasting health issues the virus can cause.
Sunak, who was chancellor during the first years of the pandemic, said the lockdown “could have been shorter”. He criticised Johnson’s handling of the pandemic in an article in the right wing Spectator magazine.
He says it had been a mistake to “empower” scientists and that the downsides of lockdowns were suppressed. Sunak’s leadership opponent Liz Truss, trade minister at the time, said she would never again approve another lockdown, and that closing schools was a mistake.
He matched her by saying that schools—one of the biggest spreaders of Covid—should have stayed open. Sunak added the government had been “wrong to scare people” about the virus, saying it was wrong for the government to publish posters showing patients on ventilators.
He also accused scientists from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), of having too much influence on closing schools and nurseries. In fact it took constant campaigning by parents and teachers—culminating in unofficial school workers’ walkouts—to secure lifesaving school closures.
Britain’s lockdown was slower than the rest of Europe, and was quickest to lift restrictions despite the highest death toll. The consequence was more lockdowns and the virus spread.
Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, backed Sunak’s new claims. “Lockdown never was backed by science,” he said. That ignores the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths and the continuing lack of action.
Routine Covid tests in English hospitals are to be scrapped this week, despite a near doubling in British deaths from the virus this summer compared with the same period last year. The move to stop asymptomatic testing in high-risk settings comes after cuts to funding to deal with Covid were imposed by Sunak when he was chancellor.
Sunak is right that lockdown should’ve been different. But his version and ours would have looked very different. For ordinary people it would’ve meant financial support, a prepared health service and lives and safety over profits. For Sunak, it means the economy flourishing for the rich at any cost to our health.
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