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.