By Jaya Pathak
Earlier this year, when the threat of a pandemic became very real, our individual views and opinions seemed to lapse. With a loss of hope comes finding faith in unity, and it is very fair to say that for the first time in a long time, people of all political backgrounds and beliefs were trying to find something to hold onto. For many of those people, that something was our leadership.
However with leadership comes power, and with power comes responsibility. Covid-19 was the common enemy, and what we needed was our leaders in Westminster to unite with our country and the rest of the world, to defeat it. We needed them to listen to the scientists, the teachers, the public transport workers, the students, the elderly, the young and the vulnerable. What could have been the government’s greatest strength, proved to be its greatest weakness. It is because of this that the need for a public inquiry into the government’s response to the pandemic is stronger than ever. The same people who trusted the government but were let down, are the same people who now need to demand answers.
The abject failures of the UK government contributed to preventable, excess deaths in their tens of thousands. Not only did the UK reach the grim milestone of the highest Covid-19 death rate in the world back in May, but the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic still lacks the rigour and routine needed to ensure that we can manage to respond to a rise in infections for the foreseeable future.
In 2017, the Exercise Cygnus report was released in which it was revealed that the UK government lacked adequate preparedness for a pandemic. Whilst pandemics are indeed unprecedented situations, preparing for one as well as possible allows for countries to have an element of control over their fate. Even more shocking was hearing a UK health minister say that he did not see this pandemic report until it featured on the news. The WHO said at the outbreak of Covid-19 that we had a “once in a generation opportunity” to control the fate of the pandemic. If the correct science was followed, and clear guidance was given to the general public, there is no reason why the transmission of Covid-19 could not have been reduced dramatically. Other countries have proved that this is indeed the case, with New Zealand being a perfect example. Irrespective of the population and landmass difference, a comparison between how closely scientific guidance was followed is appropriate and necessary. The use of masks, as well as the encouragement of social distancing from the start, meant it was possible to aim for elimination of the virus in communities across the country. Even if the UK has a greater population size, the same methods of reducing the spread of the virus would have seen a downward trend occur here too, as experienced by New Zealand.
With a Prime Minister who told the nation to “take it on the chin”, all the way through to a government who allowed their senior advisor to break lockdown rules, it is not hard to imagine why the UK’s statistics have been so devastating. Instead of rewarding our hardworking NHS and key workers with pay rises, mental health support, a sense of togetherness through abiding by the rules alongside them, or providing the adequate PPE to keep them safe while they kept us safe, they received empty gestures in the form of applause on the doorsteps of 10 Downing Street. With the end of daily press conferences and a complete lack of clarity by most elected officials in government, British people were receiving mixed messages on how they should navigate their lives during this uncertain time. With an inadequate track and trace system, many of us have fallen into a false sense of security by returning back to some aspects of “normality”. Our leaders were not elected to (and are not paid to) boast of “world-beating” efforts to protect us against Covid-19 and should have realised that we are not here to “beat” anything other than the virus itself.
When the leaders of our communities do not know what they are doing themselves, how can they expect the public to know what to do? Instead, the UK government shifted ambiguous rules around to accommodate their needs, and also to cover their backs - if we do not know how to follow the rules, then the blame falls on us in the eyes of the government.
Whilst fractions of what resembles our normal lives are returning, it is easy to forget how the government broke the trust and faith of thousands who relied on them at the start of this pandemic. It is for those victims who are not with us, and for those who are the most vulnerable in our society, that we must remember what has happened. Pressure cannot be lifted until a public enquiry is held.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company