Go to October 2020 update
Influenza is a coronavirus. Covid 19 is a coronavirus. In 2014 the Cabinet Office identified the risk of a coronavirus pandemic as the number one threat to the UK population:
Public Health England Pandemic Influenza Strategic Framework published in August 2014
From the introduction:
2.1 "With unpredictable frequency, new influenza subtypes emerge to cause an influenza pandemic. When it emerges, it is likely that a new pandemic strain will spread rapidly throughout the world, affecting large numbers of the population with little or no immunity. However, until the event occurs, the impact, expressed as the severity of the illness and proportion of the population that will be most severely affected, will be unknown. As a guide, the impact could range from a 1918-type pandemic, where there was significant morbidity and mortality in young adults, to a 2009 pandemic, where the illness was mild in most groups of the population.
Given the uncertainty and the potential impact of such an event on the UK, pandemic influenza has been classified by the Cabinet Office as the number one threat to the UK population."
What was Exercise Cygnus?
Exercise Cygnus was a 2016 government simulation of a flu outbreak, carried out to war-game the UK's pandemic readiness. It involved 950 officials from central and local government, NHS organisations, prisons and local emergency response planners. The simulation took place over three days in October 2016 and asked participants to imagine they were fighting a fictitious "worst-case-scenario" flu pandemic affecting up to 50% of the population and causing up to 400,000 excess deaths.
A report on the exercise was compiled the following year and distributed among its participants. It was frank about the state of the UK's readiness. "The UK's preparedness and response, in terms of its plans, policies and capability, is currently not sufficient to cope with the extreme demands of a severe pandemic that will have a nationwide impact across all sectors."
The report's findings were not made publicly available as part of the general antipathy towards the NHS by the Conservative party but the then Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies commented on what she had learnt from it in December 2016: that the public will now pay with their lives for deliberate government inaction and total disregard towards their primary function – to protect us all.
June 2020 after 40,000 excess deaths in the UK
The Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer at Prime Minister's Questions:
"... an obvious question for the prime minister: who's been in direct control up till now?"
Prime Minister Johnson:
"I take full responsibility for everything this fucking government has been doing in tackling coronavirus, and I'm very proud of our record ... I really do not see the purpose of his endless attacks on public trust and confidence."
(Of course Boris's fantastic success in tackling coronavirus in the UK is nothing compared to Trump's in the USA)
John Grace (The Guardian): The truth is that Boris is a beaten man even before he stands up to speak at the dispatch box. He knows that. Keir knows that. Worst of all, the country knows that. The shouting is all just empty, white noise.
Martin Kettle (The Guardian): While his effective majority of 87 holds, Johnson can afford to treat everything except Brexit with contempt. He may well get away with it, even to the extent of making a trade deal with the one-man axis of evil in the White House.
Obviously, not all those excess deaths (and that's just since February) can be laid at the government's door. It did not cause the Covid 19 pandemic and a degree of excess deaths was inevitable, but 40,000 does not take account of those yet to occur, including people who will now die from other causes that would have been preventable had the country been properly prepared.
As if that isn't enough, not only is the UK likely to have one of the highest Covid 19 death rates anywhere. According to the OECD it is likely to suffer the worst economic damage of any country in the developed world. Johnson and the fools he's surrounded himself with are a shambles, a disgrace.
What can you do if you want a government (i) that actually functions and (ii) does so for the benefit of the general population?
- Never vote Conservative for anything. Not now, not ever.
- If your MP is a Conservative, write to him/her and ask what's the point of this useless government?
- Join the Labour Party even if you are not a socialist.
October 2020 update
On top of the big ongoing things like the economy, healthcare and education, the 2020 Conservative government had three unavoidable and critical issues to deal with:
- A world pandemic it did not cause but should have been ready for.
- An impending global environmental disaster that could change the planet.
- A deliberately self-inflicted and serious wound known as 'Brexit'.
More than ever, the United Kingdom needs a government and a Prime Minister up to the task. But they are characterised by (i) crass incompetence, (ii) outright dishonesty, and (iii) rampant corruption. Johnson has no idea what he's doing. He doesn't believe in anything except perhaps himself and becoming 'King of the World' (his words). The idea would be funny if it wasn't so crucial to have a real statesman as Prime Minister at this critical time. Instead, the office-holder is an amiable blusterer who might impress people with his posh English oratory but who is actually making things worse.
Everybody knows Boris Johnson doesn't believe in Brexit. It would be one thing if he was by nature a committed Eurosceptic with a genuine philosophical belief in the United Kingdom standing alone unfettered, but he isn't. Before he claimed to have changed his mind, he said he believed in the European Union as being in Britain's geostrategic interests and he believed the overwhelming majority of people wanted to remain firmly in the Single Market. He said one thing, then the other, whichever suited his purposes or made his Telegraph readers laugh. Now we have actually left, it isn't funny any more and 'Boris' is stuck with something he advocated only to further his political career. And it means no-one should believe what he says about anything, including the best thing to do about Coronavirus.
Brexit hasn't actually failed yet. The government's response to Covid 19 has. It is now ten months and the government is still floundering around making a mess of things that should be fairly simple, like an army having enough bullets or actually knowing where the enemy is. Instead, 'world-beating' test-and-trace and 'Moonshot' mass-testing came not just to nothing but set things back (it is not worth listing all the other failures – PPE, sending infections into elderly care homes etc – everybody already knows about them). Johnson and his government didn't cause the Covid 19 virus but their actions and non-actions brought Britain one of the highest death rates and the least effective economic responses of almost every country in the world.
This disgraceful performance doesn't only involve Ministers (who are in this up to their necks). A judicial review has been filed against the government for breaching the law on the disclosure of spending on Coronavirus-related contracts awarded to private firms without any proper scrutiny or competition, over £3bn worth of which have not been made public. Of course the Department of Health and Social Care denied everything, claiming the usual 'due diligence' hardly knowing what it means. No wonder a prominent QC backed up by cross-party MPs has reportedly claimed:
Huge sums of public money have been awarded to companies with no discernible expertise. Sometimes the main qualification seems to be a political connection with key government figures.
I have seen evidence that government is sometimes paying more to buy the same product from those with political connections. We don’t know what else there is to discover because the government is deliberately keeping the public in the dark.
This sort of behaviour should be expected by a government led by Boris Johnson with his history of involvement in the now-defunct and ludicrous London Garden Bridge on which at least £43M of public funds was handed to private contractors for absolutely nothing.
Now the government's Department of Health and Social Care is refusing to make public the Exercise Cygnus report (referred to at the start of this page) which warned how the UK's health system couldn't cope in a pandemic. To be fair, the NHS has coped extremely well considering everything. That isn't the issue. It is that the government doesn't want to admit that it failed to take its own advice from as far back as 2016. They are trying to conceal the facts for electoral gain. Not that the Conservatives will again anything based on performance this year. Quite the opposite. Not surprisingly Keir Starmer is now seen by the public as a better leader than Johnson.
He should be careful though (Starmer) and show some passion like the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. I didn't particularly like Andy Burnham as a Labour Health Secretary but he'd do a better job than Johnson's (a chap called hancock) who thinks he can keep pressing lockdown buttons that don't actually have much effect on Coronavirus but wreck the economies of the same Northern regions Johnson promised to level up with the South in his Tory leadership campaign (another bullshit lie).
Government representatives came up this week and told the Leader of Oldham Council that whatever 'tier' of lockdown hancock happens to hit on, "Either we do this with you, or we do this to you. Your choice."