Guest article by leading medic Dr Kailash Chand
Since the Spanish Flu pandemic killed millions a century ago, or AIDS spread in South Africa in the early 2000s, nothing has hit the globe as hard as Covid19 pandemic. If AIDS spread in South Africa that killed 330,00 lives was President Mbeki’s failure. The huge loss of lives in UK is failure of Boris Johnson and his incompetent government.
In 2000, Mbeki surrounded himself with sycophants and cost his country hundreds of thousands of lives by ignoring science and we’re suffering the same fate now.
Boris Johnson might well ape Donald Trump in awarding himself an A-plus for his handling the coronavirus, but the judgment of history is likely to be far harsher.
I also see it as a colossal failure of leadership. I don’t think that even 20,000 would have died if it hadn’t been for the incompetence.
There’s plenty of blame to go around, with Labour failing to to hold Johnson to accounts, but Johnson himself in particular “recklessly” squandered lives. Death certificates may record the coronavirus as the cause of death, but in a larger sense vast numbers of UK people, including frontline health and other essential workers, died because of their government.
On top of the loss of lives, the economic cost of the pandemic in the United Kingdom will be trillions, an amount that will be used by the Tories to justify cuts for generations yet which could have been far lower if the crisis had been handled properly.
It’s really sad to see the UK fall from being the champion of free universal quality health care to being the laughing stock of the world. It was a tragedy of history that Johnson was Prime Minister of the UK when this hit us.
Other Prime Ministers have made terrible mistakes over the decades, including the Iraq War, financial crises and the privatisation of the NHS. But in terms of destruction of British lives, treasure and wellbeing, this pandemic may be the greatest failure of governance in the United Kingdom in the last century .
Alarm Bells From Wuhan
When the health commission of Wuhan, China, announced on 31 December that it had identified 27 cases of a puzzling pneumonia, Taiwan acted with lightning speed. Concerned that this might be an outbreak of SARS, Taiwan dispatched health inspectors to board flights arriving from Wuhan and screen passengers before allowing them to disembark. Anyone showing signs of ill health was quarantined. But Johnson let all the flights operate without any checks or restrictions for months.
That first half of January represents a huge missed opportunity for the world. If the World Health Organisation and the world’s media had raised enough questions and pressed China, then perhaps the Chinese central government would have intervened in Wuhan earlier. And if Wuhan had been locked down just two weeks earlier, it’s conceivable that this entire global catastrophe could have been averted.
But Boris Johnson wasted months after the world was warned about the virus, making no effort to prepare hospitals, build stocks of personal protective equipment or make any other significant preparations except to boast falsely of how well-prepared the UK was.
The Defiance of Science
One of the biggest sins of our government’s response to the coronavirus was the bungling of testing. Public Health England abandoned its routine test and trace strategy in mid-March, before the spring lockdown, because it was unable to keep up with the outbreak. Without testing, health officials were fighting their enemy blindfolded. They didn’t know where the virus lurked and couldn’t isolate those infected or trace their contacts.
Our testing was either absent or inadequate. South Korea, Germany and other countries quickly developed tests that did work and these were distributed around the world. Even Sierra Leone in West Africa had effective tests before the United Kingdom did.
Without proper tests, the NHS was at a loss and didn’t know what it faced.
In the battle to fight pandemic, Johnson did almost everything wrong. He discouraged mask wearing. The administration never rolled out contact tracing, missed opportunities to isolate the infected and exposed, didn’t adequately protect care homes, issued advice that confused the issues more than clarified them. Front line staff were denied PPE.
Johnson’s catastrophes arose in part because he channeled an anti-intellectual current that runs deep in the Tories, sidelining scientific experts and responding to the virus with bluster and sunny optimism, advocating herd immunity as a solution, apparently meant to bolster the financial markets.
It’s going to disappear, Johnson echoed Trump’s voice. It will disappear and we will celebrate HAPPY CHRISTMAS.
The false reassurances and dithering were deadly. It’s widely believed, same lockdowns just two weeks earlier, at least fifty percent of the deaths in the early months could have been prevented.
A basic principle of public health is the primacy of accurate communications based on the best science. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who holds a doctorate in physics, is the global champion of that approach. Boris Johnson was the opposite, sowing confusion and conspiracy theories.
Instead of listening to top government scientists, Boris marginalized and ignored them.
Most unfortunately, Johnson still has never developed a comprehensive plan to fight Covid-19. His “strategy” been to play politics, His handling of Greater Manchester was disgraceful.
The best way to protect the economy was to control the virus, not to ignore it, and the spread of Covid-19 caused economic dislocations that devastated even homes where no one was infected. Millions of UK population has slipped into poverty since May, scores of children don’t have enough food to eat and his party opposed the bill to supply food vouchers .Scores of people were struggling with mental health, and many have begun or increased substance abuse.
So in what is arguably the fifth richest country of the world, political malpractice has resulted in a pandemic of infectious disease followed by pandemics of poverty, mental illness, addiction and hunger. Mismanagement of the virus has not only sickened tens of thousands of Britishers but has also poisoned our body politic.
It didn’t have to be this way. If Boris Johnson and his team had worked harder and honestly, and responded urgently and deftly enough to achieve Taiwan’s death rate, fewer than 1000 people in the UK would have died from the virus.
Since the prime minister, Boris Johnson, acknowledged the second wave of coronavirus infections, on 18 September, the government’s Covid-19 dashboard has recorded 2,191 deaths in the UK, with 1,903 in England.
John Edmunds, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told MPs on Wednesday that without further measures, England’s tiered Covid-19 strategy would lead to high numbers of new infections every day, putting the NHS under strain and driving up the death toll.
We could still lose tens of thousands of lives in England from Covid-19 second wave.
The failures of Boris Johnson are as bad as of President Mbeki’s failures to tackle AIDS epidemic in 2000.
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