Government must get a grip on pandemic

24th Jul 2020

Back in May when the public was first required to wear face masks on public transport, the British Medical Association advocated the mandate be extended to everywhere else where social distancing was impossible.

The following month the World Health Organisation called on nations to encourage the public to wear fabric masks in Covid-19 hot spot areas as well as for all health/care workers to wear medical masks. London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has (amongst others) long warned that masks should become the “new normal” possibly for a year if not more.

The Prime Minister’s reaction, as so often has been the case throughout the pandemic, has been to dither or even to do the opposite of what other countries have been doing to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

His message has often been vague and confusing; partly due to fears of contradicting his plan to partially and prematurely lift the lockdown. Johnson even botched the success of the social distancing guidance by halving it to one metre plus so as to proceed with plans to reopen non-essential shops, restaurants and pubs. Virtually nowhere seems to be off his populist agenda, recklessly including gyms and swimming pools.

Not only was the Government ill-prepared for a pandemic but every initiative it has embarked on has not only been late but never seemed to be thoroughly thought out.

This has included the shortages in PPE equipment for front-line workers, who have as a consequence been afflicted by the deadly virus. The same happened with the testing programme, including malfunctioning kits, the complex involvement of private companies, some having to be sent to US labs to obtain results and unproven technology that failed.

The disarray has caused the Health Department to subsequently resign hope of tallying how many people are being tested daily and most importantly how many have negative results.

Not only did the Government squander millions on a series of grossly underused emergency Nightingale hospitals it insisted on prematurely trialling contact-tracing app despite being warned that it’s not fit for purpose.

While Johnson wavered over switching to a model developed by tech giants Apple and Google and the prospect of not having one before the end of the year, teams of unprepared trackers were set up using an inadequate system. This was despite Trace and Test being billed as vital to any easing of the lockdown.

Britain’s pathetic response to the pandemic has not gone unnoticed around the world. Summarising our “fatal failure,” German broadcaster ZDF noted,

“The only thing that is constant: the prime minister’s boasting of sentences like, ‘We will have the world’s best tracing system’ or ‘I am proud of what we have achieved’ or ‘We lead the world in our response on Corona.’” Over in the US itself hit hard by the virus, The New York Times told its readers that “England’s ‘world beating’ system to track the virus is anything but.”

Explaining, “The results have fallen short of the promises, jeopardising the reopening of Britain’s hobbled economy and risking a second wave of death in one of the countries most debilitated by the virus.” CNN asked, “Where did it go wrong for the UK?”

Attempts to claim that policy was guided entirely on academic advice did not wash with scientific experts, while their peers on the Government payroll were often left embarrassed. The daily press conferences at Downing Street eventually dried up with the public losing interest with what were seen as mere briefing sessions that avoided answering hard-hitting questions.

In Parliament, there has also been concern about the lack of accountability and Government announcements being made outside the Commons.
With no vaccine in sight, there remains a lingering suspicion the Government is still bent on supporting ‘herd immunity’ to prevent a second wave of coronavirus pandemic.

The confusion over fluctuating face mask policy is just the latest in a succession of examples of poor ministerial leadership at a time when it is so badly needed. Even when announcing in Parliament that the Government was backtracking on their use, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, only spoke of “evidence that face coverings increase confidence in people to shop.”

As if his ministerial portfolio was something else, he made no mention of the effectiveness of wearing one as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from travelling into the air and onto other people. Cabinet Secretary

Michael Gove compounded the public’s confusion when he negated the PM’s notice that there could be stricter measures on face masks by telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show they should not be mandatory adding he “trusts people’s good sense.”

With MPs adjourning for the long summer break, and the risk of a resurgence of the first wave and even worse a second wave in the autumn still a reality, the Government needs to stay connected. The PM has already wasted precious time avoiding criticism for his devastating response to the pandemic.

The public needs clear leadership and perhaps even a bit of humility that the response could have been better. His staple advice has been for people to continue to wash their hands, but he cannot wash his own hands of his responsibility especially just over six months after winning a sizeable mandate. He must get a grip with Covid-19.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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