Guest Blog – Zero Covid

March 9, 2021

When is this nightmare going to end? The answer is as soon as we ‘wake up’ to the fact that we have the worst Covid death rate in the entire world because of the Tory Government’s outrageous incompetence and the utterly futile suppression strategy that locks us into an endless cycle of lockdown, outbreaks, lockdown.

The low infection and death rates in Australia, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam give testimony to the fact that the unacceptable rates in the UK are an entirely avoidable human catastrophe caused by the failure of our government’s response. 

The UK had more deaths during the last week of January 2021 than all of the above-mentioned countries put together, during the whole of the previous year! The difference is that they have all adopted a ZeroCovid elimination approach. If we had done this, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved.

Compare the UK response to that of Australia where a strict five-day lockdown was last week imposed on 6.5 million people in Victoria State because as few as 13 cases have emerged in a ‘quarantine’ hotel in Melbourne. Also last week, New Zealand’s PM, Jacinda Ardern ordered the country’s biggest city Auckland to go into lockdown after the discovery of 3 new cases of Covid.

Our disastrous failings in the UK are largely due to Johnson simply not being up to the job of PM, especially in the time of a pandemic — the tragedy is that he has stayed and tried to bumble his way through it. Throughout, it has been too little too late, dithering prevarication, indecision and humiliating u-turns. On top of this, the messaging has been over-complicated and confusing.

The Government is failing to follow the science as well as being woefully ignorant of it. Despite scientists advising against a premature easing of the current lockdown, 63 Tory MPs are demanding the removal of, ‘all Covid-19 legal restrictions by the end of April’. Matt Hancock goes further with a ridiculous suggestion that Covid is an illness that we will have to learn to live with, ‘like we do flu’ despite scientists emphatically warning against treating Covid like flu as mutations are getting ‘more dangerous’ and ‘more infectious’. 

Unbelievably Dido Harding, head of England’s disastrously inept Test and Trace programme before being promoted to Head of the National Institute of Health Protection, stunned the Commons Science & Technology Committee when she said that Covid mutations ‘were something that none of us were able to predict’. 

When we eventually get a public inquiry into why the fight against Covid has gone so unbelievably badly, the Government will also have to explain why they wasted millions on crony contracts which were awarded to Tory Party donors and close associates without the usual safeguarding processes of competitive tendering. Almost all of these contracts spectacularly failed to deliver! We are burdened with the worst of leaders of the worst of government at the worst of times. 

The only thing that has gone well is the roll out of the vaccine which was placed in the safe hands of the NHS instead of unaccountable private profiteers. The Government can take no praise at all for this success. Let’s not forget that this is a Tory Government characterised by a liberal aversion to state intervention, an obstinate obsession with free market fundamentalism and a determination to privatise all aspects of the NHS.
The vaccine is not a silver bullet and we must continue to proceed with the greatest of caution. It is inevitable that we will eventually have no alternative but to adopt a CovidZero strategy. Now is a good time to start.

Dave Knaggs (Chair of Penrith & the Border CLP, written in  personal capacity)First Printed in The Cumberland & Westmoreland Herald