Confusion from Government on Covid-19

24th Mar 2020
Confusion from Government on Covid-19

After being criticised for dithering and causing much confusion, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced a series of U-turn policies, changing his advice from suggesting people should try to live their life as normal as possible to virtually confining most of the population in their homes.

Seeming to lack any empathy, he told people to be prepared to accept an unknown death toll from the virus. “I must level with the British public: many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”

The Government’s Coronavirus testing policy is glaringly out of step with other countries as well as the World Health Organisation. His chief medical officer Chris Whitty stoked fears by projecting a worst-case scenario that sees 80 per cent of the country contracting the virus.

With just a 1 per cent mortality rate, this would equate to more than 500,000 deaths in this country alone, playing down that the fatality rate among the number of recorded cases around the world had reached as high as 9 per cent at the time of going to press.

Johnson belatedly followed the quarantine and self-isolation measures deployed elsewhere in Europe like Italy, Spain and France. His Government is giving the distinct impression of being averse to taking the lead. His suggestion for “social distancing” only came after others took matters into their own hands and cancel gathering events.

But the Government stopped short of being decisive to ban such events. His move towards closing universities and schools, so often the hotbed in the transmission of illnesses, came late on March 19.

The grave fear is that Britain will be overwhelmed by the pandemic. The NHS and other front-line services have been butchered by a decade of unnecessary austerity measures used as an excuse to cut back on basic provisions.

Tens of thousands of nurses and other medical practitioners have been lost due to Brexit while much alarm has also been expressed about the inadequate number of intensive-care beds and even ventilators that are expected to deal with the worst effects of the outbreak.

Cancelling all non-urgent operations and have an even greater reliance on telephone-only appointments with GPs may aid capacity, but basic preparations and the use 111 as a hotline is completely overwhelmed and unlikely to cope without massive recruitment.

Lack of reassurance has caused people to stockpile causing chaos with ‘virtual queuing’ starting online on some home delivery services even to book slots unavailable for two or three weeks and could grow even longer.

The Government has been propelled to give daily briefings as if to give the pretence that it is doing something. Of major concern though is the timid response of offering much-needed financial support that could become a huge issue adding to the fears of rioting if people’s demands are not met.

A level-playing field is required, especially at a time of unprecedented humanitarian crisis. It has certainly not been with the treatment of Iran, which has been hit with the third-highest number of reported Covid-19 cases in the world.

In response to temporarily releasing Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from prison in Tehran, Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, urged the Iranian Government ‘to ensure she receives any necessary medical care.’

He made no mention of how the pandemic had been exacerbated by US sanctions that have blocked the import of testing kits and the other necessary humanitarian aid. An Android app intended to help Iranians to self-diagnose rather than going to a hospital was booted from Google’s Play Store due to US sanctions.

The UK Government is still refusing to pay an outstanding £400 million debt owed to Tehran since 1979. This would help Iran in the current world pandemic to protect and treat its citizens. But it seems Johnson doesn’t care about Muslim suffering.

Coordinated proactive measures that go beyond just telling to wash their hands are needed more than ever. The British Government (as well as others) has to be in the front line to combat this deadly pandemic and to minimise the death rate. Everyone needs assurances as they are being virtually locked down in their homes perhaps for months.

A joint effort is required involving all agencies, but particularly from ministers to set an example that we are all in this together and together it will be overcome with no expenses spared.

NOTICE: This editorial was written last week, prior to the UK Government announcement of a nation-wide lockdown.

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