Pandemics aren’t new. They date back to 430BC; Black Death, Bubonic Plague, Cholera, Russian, Spanish and Asian flu. Swine, SARS and MERS.
In 2006 HMG predicted a window of 30yrs, for the arrival of the next pandemic and in 2016 there were two exercises, rehearsing preparedness and response… Cygnus and Alice.
The exact arrival of Covid and its cousins, might have been be unpredictable but it's hardly a surprise. The surprise is, the extent to which government was taken by surprise.
The fact that we were so unprepared was underlined when the under-resourced PHE was binned and replaced by the UK Health Security Agency, with a budget fit for a small country.
You might know all this but what you won’t know is on top of Cygnus, in the same year, there had been a number of exercises modelling different scenarios. Ten in all, one was for coronavirus.
We’d plenty of time to get ready. Well, more ready than we were.
The arrival of CV-19 was flagged up, to WHO, by the Chinese, on December 31st 2019.
On the 10th January 2020 the WHO issued technical guidance; how to detect, test and manage a potential ‘respiratory pathogen’.
On January 12th, China shared the genetic sequence for SARS-CoV-2.
It took until the end of March for BoJo to get off his backside. HMG was caught with its pants-down and you know the rest.
People have died who might, otherwise, still be with us, enjoying friends and family, this Christmas, Eide, Ōmisoka, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and all the rest...
Weakened by a decade of austerity, the NHS drew a breath and its magnificent people muddled through as elegantly as they could.
Horrible rota gaps were filled by people doing the job of two. The lowest capacity of most of the health systems in Europe, a crazy-paving of services, smashed by Lansley’s lunacy… how the NHS survived beggars belief.
The front-line saved the NHS, saved people’s lives and saved BoJo’s bacon… and his life, into the bargain.
It’s beyond doubt HMG made a Horlix of its response and impossible to argue that we were in anyway, as prepared as we could have been.
By June 2020, we had had the worst per capita death toll from COVID-19 in Europe, despite being the sixth richest nation in the world.
By January 2021, throughout February and March… the worst global, per-capita, death-toll.
Back in 2010, the incoming Government’s ambition was to ‘roll back the state.’ Between 2010 and 2019, as percentage of GDP, public-spending fell from 42% to 35%.
Public services were in ruins. Social care was estimated to have 110,000 vacancies at the start of the pandemic. Care-homes had been struggling for some time, due to underfunding, staff shortages and rip-off owners.
The National Pensioners’ Convention begged the Government to sort-out social care but HMG didn’t reply to any of their letters.
How to handle a pandemic?
Find the virus,
isolate those who have it,
trace and test their contacts
and be quick about it.
Lockdown until a find-test-trace-isolate-support system is in place.
How do I know? It’s in WHO guidance.
HMG didn’t do any of that quickly enough and when they did, it was half-hearted.
It is a devastating read. The sort of narrative that would be the screen-play to a disaster movie, the plot line to a thriller… were it not the story of our times, your family and the ones we all love and hold dear.
It is an extraordinarily good piece of work. It is a surgical instrument, a scalpel. It is a demolition job, a wrecking-ball through Whitehall.
It’s a tale of leadership that was little more than bravado. The public left with a choice of isolating or putting food on the table.
There is no better example; in the absence of guidance, London Underground unions took charge of protecting workers and published their own.
This, the undeniable testimony of the people who were there, watched it happen and gave their indelible, undeniable witness to Micheal Mansfield’s inquiry team.
It is brilliant. HMG, stupid, crooked, cronyism, desperate, fumbling, caught-out? Misconduct in public office? You be the judge.
Read this. It is goose-bump good, a spine chiller and jaw dropping.
>> I'm hearing -right now just over two million booster doses a week are being given in England. At that rate it'll take until the spring to vaccinate all eligible adults.
We have to get to four million doses a week. A lot of the infrastructure has been dismantled; GPs gone back to their day jobs, one out of three of the mass vaccination centres closed.
Pharmacies don't have enough staff. There are two hundred hospital vaccination sites but only 30 vaccinate the public.
>> I'm hearing - Primary care providers will be paid £15 for covid vaccinations from today, up from £12.58.
>> I'm hearing - Covid admissions in the North of England dropped by 40% in November and admissions have plateaued in London and the South East.
>> I'm hearing - 22 Tory MPs voted against Covid regulations for mask wearing. Including; Steve Baker, Graham Brady, Andrew Bridgen, Christopher Chope, Philip Davies, Jackie Doyle-Price, Richard Drax, Mark Francois, Philip Holloone, Mark Jenkinson, Craig Mackinlay, Esther McVey, Charles Walker.