I’ve been compiling a little file. It’s marked “Tory Covid-19 stupidity”. When I say it’s little, I mean it is huge – and getting bigger all the time.
Would you like to read some of the examples I’ve found over the last week or so?
Let’s have a look:
Possibly the stupidest idea the Tories had was to remove England’s chief nurse, Ruth May, from Downing Street press conferences after she refused to support government advisor Dominic Cummings. The incident happened on June 1, two days after England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam sparked headlines by saying that lockdown rules “apply to all” when asked about Mr Cummings.
Van Tam has not appeared at press conferences since May 30, and on June 1 Ms May was removed from the line-up and Health Secretary Matt Hancock had to present the slides on the progress of Covid-19 himself, to the best of his limited ability.
It has since been revealed that everybody appearing on the briefings is now required to support the government’s position: “First it was Dominic Cummings, then easing lockdown and now the R-rate and the two-metre rule.”
“Asked to comment, No 10 said it strongly denied the claims that Ms May had been dropped over her views on Mr Cummings and added that health and scientific advisers would continue to take questions in the briefings.” That was on June 13.
The decision to remove Ms May raised questions that the Tory government is not “following the science”, as ministers have been claiming for months, unless “the science” agrees with their own narrative.
As Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Munira Wilson wrote to Hancock on Sunday, “By silencing [the experts], the government is not only denying the public the opportunity to hear from them, but also threatening the confidence the public has in the government’s approach to lifting lockdown, and more broadly in how and when government is using and sharing expert advice.”
To increase the embarrassment, Chancellor Rishi Sunak admitted that the government could overrule experts like Sir Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty on relaxing social distancing rules – disproving its own claim to be “following the science”.
But Downing Street strongly denied claims that Ms May had been dropped over her views on Cummings, and added that health and scientific advisers would continue to take questions in the briefings.
The trouble is, by that time the damage had been done and the credibility of Boris Johnson’s government had been dealt another crippling blow – by its own hand.
“The Government quietly relaxed strict controls to stop the spread of coronavirus in hospitals at the height of the crisis,” according to the Daily Telegraph.
“Hospitals were instructed to avoid using temporary staff to lower risk of spreading the virus.” The article goes on to state that this decree was soon reversed – indicating that it was a mistake that produced bad results.
The Torygraph seems highly critical of the Johnson government’s attitude altogether, in fact. This op-ed piece takes no prisoners: “Having been widely, and rightly, condemned for a slow and inadequate response to the pandemic, ministers are doubly shy of lifting the restrictions for fear of acting prematurely, getting it wrong again, and incubating a second wave.
“They have some reason to worry. The rate of new infections still seems relatively high compared to much of the rest of Europe, while the shambles of the UK’s “test, trace and isolate” initiative gives little confidence that social distancing measures can be safely abandoned without more deaths.
“We seem to have ended up with the worst of all worlds – the highest per capita death rate of any major economy, the most extreme form of continuing lockdown, and according to the latest OECD assessment, the biggest economic hit.”
It seems that, in addition to all the organisations tasked with handling a pandemic that were scrapped by previous Tory prime ministers, Boris Johnson closed the last one himself six months before Covid-19 arrived.
The Mail reports this one: “Boris Johnson scrapped a team of Cabinet ministers tasked with protecting the UK from a pandemic six months before coronavirus arrived, a Mail investigation has found.
“The group, officially known as the Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingency Committee (THRCC), was supposed to ensure the UK was ready to cope with a pandemic.
“It was mothballed by former prime minister Theresa May on the advice of Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill so ministers and officials could focus on Brexit [and] abolished by Mr Johnson days after he entered No10 last July as part of a vow to streamline Whitehall.”
Shades of David Cameron’s “war on red tape”!
Only a few years before, medical experts had believed a strain of SARS to be the next pandemic – but it had fizzled out. It might have been possible to justify scrapping pandemic response precautions on grounds that modern medical methods made them unnecessary in the light of this – but that wasn’t the reason and this represents a major blunder.
Oh, dear, Johnson and his cronies just can’t seem to stop being racist!
“The British Medical Association has demanded an explanation from the government following reports that pages containing recommendations to protect black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities were removed from last week’s Covid-19 disparity report,” reported The Guardian.
“Dr Chaand Nagpaul CBE, the BMA council chair, noted his concern over reports that 69 pages covering seven recommendations were removed from last week’s Public Health England’s report.
“The review was widely criticised for failing to investigate possible reasons for the disparities or make recommendations on how to address them.”
Perhaps government flunkies found it hard to include the words “persistent government racism” in their report?
The recommendations appear to have been published now. In a letter to the Equalities Minister, Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie wrote: “The clear message from stakeholders was the requirement for tangible actions, provided at scale and pace, with a commitment to address the underlying factors of inequality.”
And the seven recommendations were (translated from PHE technobabble):
1. Collect and record ethnicity data during NHS treatment, and ensure that it is available to help health teams reduce the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities.
2. Research the social, cultural, structural, economic, religious, and commercial factors that affect the appearance of Covid-19 in BAME communities, and develop easy-to-implement programmes to reduce risk and improve health.
3. Improve access, experiences and outcomes of NHS, local government and Integrated Care Systems commissioned services by BAME communities. This to be achieved via regular equity audits; use of Health Impact Assessments; integration of equality into quality systems; good representation of black and minority ethnic communities among staff at all levels; sustained workforce development and employment practices; ad trust-building dialogue with service users.
4. Develop risk assessment tools to reduce the risk of exposure to and infection with Covid-19, especially for key workers working with a large cross section of the general public or in contact with those infected with Covid-19.
5. Fund, develop and implement Covid-19 education and prevention campaigns, in partnership with BAME and faith communities; rebuild trust with and uptake of routine clinical services; reinforce messages on early identification, testing and diagnosis; and prepare communities to take full advantage of contact tracing, antibody testing and vaccine availability.
6. Accelerate efforts to target health promotion and disease prevention programmes for non-communicable diseases promoting healthy weight, physical activity, smoking cessation, mental well-being and effective management of chronic conditions including diabetes, hypertension and asthma.
7. Ensure that Covid-19 recovery plans actively reduce inequalities caused by the wider factors that affect health, to create long term, sustainable change. Fully funded, sustained and meaningful approaches to tackling ethnic inequalities must be prioritised.
There they are. Now we must all monitor what happens – or else the government is likely to simply shelve the letter and do nothing (as we have seen so many times before).
Given the enormity of these blunders, is it any surprise that the government is facing litigation over its failures so far?
Matt Hancock is likely to be dragged into court over the government’s insistence on slapping vulnerable patients with “Do Not Attempt Resuscitation” orders.
This has been going on at least since lockdown was ordered and This Site has reported on it often. The government and various health organisations have announced that the demand for these orders to be imposed on patients en masse, rather than discussed with them individually as required by law, has been withdrawn – but we have found that this is not the case.
Kate Masters, writing in The Independent, stated: “There appears to have been a national directive for doctors to put emergency plans in place for people at risk of becoming very unwell if they catch Covid-19, even without them being able to engage in the process. Just a few simple pieces of information would help patients and medics. These include the facts about DNACPR, including that they can be made without your involvement if you don’t want to discuss the matter, and that full information must be provided as to why this decision has been made on your behalf.
“Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has refused my request to provide this information on the NHS website… Instead, he has said the information currently available is sufficient. In fact, the information … is confusing about DNACPR and gives a misleading impression. It says “you can change your mind and your DNACPR status at any time”. This is just not right. Except in the special circumstances where a patient makes an advance decision to refuse treatment, DNACPR status is not something a patient always chooses, but is often a decision made by the treating team after consultation with the patient and, where appropriate, relevant family members.
“The legal requirement to consult gives the patient or family the opportunity to seek a second opinion if they are concerned about the decision or think it is premature or inappropriate.
“I am prepared to go as far as I need to ensure people are given access to this information about their rights. That’s why I’m now planning to take Hancock to court over the matter. I am raising funds to pursue the case using crowdfunding, and encourage you to add your support.”
Meanwhile, families whose loved ones have died of Covid-19 are demanding an independent public inquiry into the government’s handling of the crisis, with 500 relatives of people who have died during the pandemic launching the Covid-19 Bereaved Families’ campaign.
And healthcare staff are also demanding a public inquiry – into the deaths of hundreds of their colleagues and failings of PPE (personal protective equipment).
The Doctors’ Association (DAUK), supported by the Good Law Project and charity Hourglass, is calling for a judicial review into the decision by the government not to hold a public inquiry into the planning, procurement, and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and social care staff.
Nursing Notes tells us: “With healthcare being left “wearing visors made by teenagers on 3D printers” and “care workers being told to share the same mask”, the group has raised concerns that the inadequacy of PPE may have contributed wholly or in part to the tragic deaths of health and social care workers.
“At least 245 health and social care workers are known to have died from COVID-19 – with some figures suggesting … dramatically more.
“Despite a petition receiving over 120,000 signatures supporting a public inquiry, there has been no formal response from the government.”
Let us hope that all these groups and individuals get to have their day in court – before Johnson succeeds in his plan to stifle judges’ ability to force his government to abide by the law.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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