‘We are paying the price for Boris mismanagement’

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The toll has crossed 100,000. The failures of Prime Minister Boris Johnson are as bad as of President Mbeki’s failures to tackle AIDS epidemic of 2000, writes Dr Kailash Chand

Mismanagement of the virus has not only sickened tens of thousands of Britons, but has also poisoned our body politic. It didn’t have to be this way. If Boris Johnson and his team had worked harder and honestly, and responded urgently and deftly enough to achieve Taiwan’s death rate, fewer than 20,000 Britons would have died from the virus.

Prof. John Edmunds at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine told MPs last year that without further measures England’s tiered Covid-19 strategy would lead to high numbers of new infections everyday, putting the NHS under strain and driving up the death toll. We could still loose tens of thousands of deaths in England from Covid-19 second wave. And that’s what happened.

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The failures of Boris Johnson are as bad as of President Mbeki’s failures to tackle AIDS epidemic of 2000. Since pandemic of Spanish flu a century ago, or AIDS spread in South Africa in the early 2000s, nothing has hit the globe as hard as Covid-19 pandemic. If AIDS spread in South Africa that killed 330,00 lives was President Mbeki’s failure. The huge loss of lives (over 100,000) in the UK is failure of Boris Johnson and his incompetent government.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

As in 2000, Mbeki surrounded himself with sycophants and cost his country hundreds of thousands of lives by ignoring science, and we’re suffering the same fate.

We too see, the highest death rate in the world, as a colossal failure of leadership, I don’t think that even 30,000 would have died if it hadn’t been for the incompetence.

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There’s plenty of blame to go around, involving inability of Labour to hold Boris to accounts, but Boris Johnson in particular “recklessly squandered lives. Death certificates may record the coronavirus as the cause of death, but in a larger sense vast numbers of Britishers, including frontline health and other essential workers died because their government was incompetent.

On top of loss of lives, the economic cost of the pandemic in the United Kingdom will be tens of thousands billions. And ordinary citizen would be in debts for generations.

People wearing face masks stand next to Christmas trees in London, Britain. (XinhuaHan Yan)

It’s really sad to see the UK fall from being the champion of free universal quality health care to being the laughingstock of the world. It was a tragedy of history that Boris Johnson was Prime Minister of UK when this hit us.

Prime Ministers have made other terrible mistakes over the decades, including the Iraq War, financial crisis and privatisation of the NHS. But in terms of destruction of British lives, treasure and wellbeing, this pandemic may be the greatest failure of governance in the United Kingdom in the last century.

The Defiance of Science

Perhaps the original sin of our government response to the coronavirus came with the bungling of testing. Public Health England abandoned its routine test and trace strategy in mid-March, before the spring lockdown, because it was unable to keep up with the outbreak. Without testing, health officials fight an opponent while blindfolded. They don’t know where the virus lurks, and they can’t isolate those infected or trace their contacts.

Our testing was either absent or inadequate. South Korea, Germany and other countries quickly developed tests that did work, and these were distributed around the world. Even Sierra Leone in West Africa had effective tests before the United Kingdom did.

Without proper tests, the NHS was at loss and didn’t know what they faced.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

In battle to fight pandemic, Boris did almost everything wrong. He discouraged mask wearing. The administration never rolled out contact tracing, missed opportunities to isolate the infected and exposed, didn’t adequately protect care homes, issued advice that confused the issues more than clarified them. Front line staff was never equipped with PPEs.

Boris’s missteps arose in part because he channelled an anti-intellectual current that runs deep in the Tories, as he sidelined scientific experts and responded to the virus with a sunny optimism, advocated heard immunity as a solution, apparently meant to bolster the financial markets.

It’s going to disappear, Boris echoed Trump’s voice, it will disappear and we will celebrate happy Christmas.

The false reassurances and dithering were deadly. It’s widely believed, same lockdowns just two weeks earlier, at least 50% of the deaths in the early months could have been prevented.

A basic principle of public health is the primacy of accurate communications based on the best science. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who holds a doctorate in physics, is the global champion of that approach. Boris Johnson was the opposite, sowing confusion and conspiracy theories.

Instead of listening to top government scientists, Boris marginalised and ignored them.

Most unfortunately, Boris still has never developed a comprehensive plan to fight Covid-19. His “strategy” been to play politics, his handling of Greater Manchester was disgraceful.

So in what is arguably the fifth richest country of the world, political malpractice has resulted in a pandemic of infectious disease followed by pandemics of poverty, mental illness, addiction and hunger.