Johnson ramps up the death toll – he should resign

In Britain the Covid-19 pandemic remains out of control, with hospital deaths topping 16,000 and with, scandalously, an unknown number of deaths in care homes and in the community that have yet to be counted. The Johnson government was and is conducting a totally unacceptable herd immunity policy but were denying it by lies, bluff and a compliant media.

Meanwhile those countries that followed the Chinese approach – that is hitting the virus hard early and chasing it down with extensive testing – are to varying degrees, starting to reopen their economies.

The global economy is falling off a cliff. Millions of companies have either collapsed or are about to do so. Airlines globally are grounded and Richard Branson is pleading for government aid on the basis that Virgin Atlantic is on the verge of liquidation.

On 19 April, the Johnson government was shaken to its foundations by an article in the Sunday Times, which ripped its strategy to pieces. The article entitled “Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster” is in my view one of the most devastating critiques for many years of a governmental strategy on a major issue of life and death. 

It reveals a government in chaos. It points out how Johnson had skipped the first five Cobra meetings on the virus, how appeals to order protective gear were ignored and how scientist’s warnings fell on deaf ears. Failings, the article says, that may have cost thousands of lives. In reality there is no doubt that it did.

The government’s disastrous herd immunity policy emerged: “because the modelling they were working to was not for Corona virus at all but for flu.” All of the government’s planning was therefore for a flu pandemic not coronavirus. There has basically been, the article says, “a divide between scientists in Asia who saw this as a horrible, deadly disease on the lines of Sars, which requires immediate lockdown, and those in the West, particularly in the US and UK, who saw this as flu.”

The Sunday Times was also told that contrary to the official line, “Britain was in a poor state of readiness for a pandemic. Emergency stockpiles of PPE had severely dwindled and gone out of date after becoming a low priority in the years of austerity cuts. The training to prepare key workers for a pandemic had been put on hold for two years while contingency planning was diverted to deal with a possible no-deal Brexit.”

A Cobra meeting on the virus was eventually held on 24 January. But, the paper says, it took just an hour to brush aside the coronavirus threat: “Matt Hancock, the health secretary bounced out of Whitehall after chairing the meeting and breezily told reporters the risk to the UK public was “low”.”

The response of the government was unprecedented. They not only fielded a string of Ministers to refute the article, but also issued a point-by-point official governmental rebuttal of the article. It has had little effect. The Johnson government has lost the initiative and has been reeling from it ever since.

The reason for the panic was clear enough, the indictment was devastating and the only rational conclusion at the end of it was that Johnson, by any standards, is completely unfit for office in such a situation and should resign forthwith.

Alan Davies, 23 April 2020

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2 Comments on Johnson ramps up the death toll – he should resign

  1. Philip Ward // 23rd April 2020 at 6:06 pm // Reply

    The article doesn’t mention the most stupid aspect of the government’s rebuttal of the Sunday Times article. Twice, when they are criticised in the article for not ramping up the threat level of the pandemic, they make the following statements:

    “The risk level was set to “Low” because at the time our scientific advice was that the risk level to the UK public at that point was low. The first UK case was not until 31 January. The specific meaning of “public health risk” refers to the risk there is to the public at precisely that point.”


    “This is a misrepresentation of what the threat level is. This is about the current public health danger – and on February 21, when the UK had about a dozen confirmed cases, out of a population of over 66 million, the actual threat to individuals was moderate.”

    This is completely ridiculous. The clue is in the terms, “risk”, “threat” and “planning”. They all refer to what is likely to happen in the future, not to the present. These unscientific excuses are basically saying, “I’m driving along the motorway at 100mph in the wrong direction, but because I haven’t crashed yet, the threat level is low”. I feel sorry for the people, often working for local authorities, who actually plan for large-scale emergencies: they must be tearing their hair out.

  2. Jonathan Pitts // 23rd April 2020 at 7:58 pm // Reply

    The ruing class will get Johnson out soon, using him to take the blame away from the government and Tories as a whole. They may look for a more credible (?) Tory, but their preference would be a charming social-liberal from the LP. Starmer. Exactly the role of Blair in completing the Thatcher political project. They are grooming him now. watch the right wing media and analysts line up to praise him

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