There has been lots of somewhat distasteful use of the covid 19 pandemic in the political world in the last 2 days. In times of a national emergency endeavours to combat a common enemy should always be a priority over the normal political banter we see in parliament. There have been absurd claims that the Government have tried to bring in local lockdowns by the back door by just slipping some extra guidance into a document over the weekend. This related to some extra guidance for those affected in the 8 areas where there are hot spots of the Indian variant of the covid virus. The dispute is in the interpretation of two sentences. “Stay away from the affected areas” and “minimise travel unless for essential reasons.” Remember this is only guidance and the application of common sense. There is no suggestion that any laws have changed. Most sensible citizens will see no significant difference in the guidance. I and probably all of you, if living near a local covid hotspot, would use our common sense and be extra careful if we had to go into the area. Still wear a mask and respect distances and staying out- doors whenever possible.
The argument caused such a furore the Government have backed down a little and agreed they should have discussed the wording change with the local officials first. It is difficult to know how much the media have stirred this to create a story, but whenever good common-sense suggestions are made they shood be listened to and shared with others, I just do not believe there was any attempt to bring back a local lock down by stealth. Indeed we know how much our PM does not like lockdowns and from the revelations of Dominic Cummings today he has been in trouble for not doing them earlier in the pandemic.
At the Select Committee meeting today, Dominic Cummings made accusation after accusation hiding behind Parliamentary Privilege to avoid being sued. His guns were pointing at the Prime Minister and particularly at Matt Hancock whom he said repeatedly lied about many things and should on his recommendation have been sacked some 15-20 times. I have listened to some 7 hours of this today. I have no intention of reporting all the details, you can read it and watch numerous videos on the news web sites. Cummings tried to explain the full story about his journey to Durham when his wife was ill. If this version was correct and the security issues where their lives had been threatened, I have every sympathy for him. I am sure had this been made public at the time there would have been more sympathy for him. He was very contrite when he talked about it and not telling the whole story at the time.
His accusations about the PM wanting to allow people to catch covid so we could quickly achieve Herd immunity were worrying and so was the suggestions that we should have parties like chicken pox parties to hasten the herd immunity effect were repulsive. I listened to Dame Deidre Hine in a radio interview today who talked about the detailed report she had written after the last pandemic. She made it clear that herd immunity is not effective in this situation. I cannot believe that the scientists and other advisors would seriously have considered this.
Perhaps his worst attack was left for Matt Hancock the Secretary of State for Health. I am sure he would not have spoken in the way he did if he had to prove what he was saying. He blamed the early problems of track and trace on Mr Hancock. The running of it was taken away from the Dept of H Health.
He supported the Bill Gates approach to the vaccine policy where all the work streams work in parallel rather than one after another. He suggested that He and Sir Patrick Valance were key in encouraging the PM to follow this approach, contrary to the EU policy.
Asked by the Committee chair about lessons learnt . he said it was about leadership and clearly knowing who was in charge of each step. Often it was very confused with no one person identified as the lead.
Asked about why the legislation , the Coronavirus act , was necessary, Cummings argued that the Civil Contingencies Legislation was no longer fit for purposes even though it had been developed specifically to deal with these types of emergencies. I wrote more about this in the ICPEM submission to the Select Committees. At that time there was the suggestion that the Government wanted to manage this through the Department of Health rather than the Home Office.
Cummings also claimed that there were regular and consistent leaks from SAGE and he did not trust them. SAGE met at COBRA, a purpose built Cabinet Office Briefing Room A , all mobile phones and recording devices are banned and the room regularly checked for bugs.
Much of this will resurface at the Public Enquiry already planned for next year. The lawyers are ready to start claims and counter claims. I fear litigation will be inevitable, but suggestions of convictions of some Government members for corporate manslaughter is a bit far-fetched. It remains to be seen how many people resign in the wake of todays claims. I certainly know now why I never really wanted to be a politician.
In other news;
Following Germany’s reaction followed by Austria, France joined them today in requiring any traveller to be isolating for a week after arrival in France and to have the normal negative test. The EU’s guidance is being eroded by national rules.
The Indian variant in Wales is largely in the Cardiff area and is being managed as a cluster around a clear point of entry. In England there are now 8 hotspots which are also showing some evidence of local spread.
Not only does the UK have a major problem on its hands with all this political fall out, we are also clearly seeing the rise in new cases again and it might just now be beginning to impact on hospital use and the ability of the NHS to cope.
If things show no improvement by Fridy I am sure that the June 12th plans will be put on hold
With the number of tests done both yesterday and today being well below 1 million. the numbers positive yesterday were 2,493 and today 3,180. This is a rise of 18% over the last week the rate is rising slowly again now 24.4per 100k (23.7/100k yesterday).
Hospital data has not significantly changed. (954 in hospital today and 978 yesterday) . There were 115 new admissions today and 123 yesterday . The admission rate yesterday showed a fall of 6.1% compared with a rise of 10.8% yesterday.
Deaths reported were 15 yesterday and 9 today, making a total of 54 deaths in the last week.
A sad day for all concerned. I do not believe any one has deliberately done less that their best in dealing with this pandemic I believe as we rewrite plans for dealing with the next pandemic perhaps we need to find sector leaders from across the house ignoring politics when dealing with the pandemic. Each Sector leader taking responsibility for a specific task, and each group having the best available scientific support.
Meanwhile use your common sense, do not take any risks, if you have to take a risk then do everything possible to mitigate any risk. Stay in the open air whenever possible or plenty of ventilation indoors. Wear your masks when in crowds. Please do not be distressed by claims there have been thousands of deaths from Covid, which could have been avoided. Remember they died from Covid no individuals can be blamed for it. With days like todays many of us will find they need extra support, please look after one another and write about your thoughts and fears. Above all stay safe.