Boris Johnson press conference Boris Johnson press conference. Photo: Number 10 / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

A parliamentary report exposes the deliberately cruel nature of the government’s disastrous pandemic response, argues Jamal Elaheebocus

A new parliamentary report has found that the government’s early response to the pandemic constitutes “one of the most important public health failures the UK has ever experienced”.

The report from the Science and Technology committee and Health and Social Care committee found that the government and its scientific advisers were guilty of Groupthink and adopting a fatalistic approach to the pandemic.

This led to the government pursuing a herd immunity policy and delaying locking down in March, which resulted in 20,000 unnecessary deaths

The report makes clear that:

“This slow and gradualist approach was not inadvertent, nor did it reflect bureaucratic delay or disagreement between ministers and their advisers. It was a deliberate policy – proposed by official scientific advisers and adopted by the governments of all of the nations of the UK,”

The report also points to key failures which allowed the virus to spread further, such as the squandering of the opportunity to develop mass testing after a Covid test was created in January 2020. It also says that the test, trace and isolate system, which was outsourced to private company Serco at the cost of £22 billion, was “slow, uncertain and often chaotic”, “ultimately failed in its stated objective to prevent future lockdowns”, and “severely hampered the UK’s response to the pandemic”

However, the report is far from perfect, focussing significantly on the success of the vaccine rollout and thus drawing attention away from the fundamental failures of the government throughout the pandemic. 

Jeremy Hunt, talking about the report, described the government’s response as a “game of two halves”, ignoring the fact that the second half of the pandemic was dealt with just as badly, if not worse, as at the start, with the government failing to lockdown early enough and meaning tens of thousands died in early 2021. 

Despite this, a lot of the findings serve an important purpose: to rebut the narrative emerging across the mainstream media and ruling class that the government did its best to deal with the pandemic. The appalling death toll and continued failure to keep the virus under control are blamed on the fact that the virus was novel and that the country hadn’t faced a pandemic like this before.

Instead what happened is that the government decided very early on to pursue a herd immunity strategy instead of taking effective measures to control the virus. They knew full well that tens of thousands of people would die as a result but they pursued the strategy anyway, at the cost of the lives of mostly elderly, disabled, BAME and working class people.

This was not, as chair of the science and technology committee and Tory MP Greg Clark said, just “a reflection of fatalism” but also a deliberate policy which the government knew would kill thousands of people and pursued anyway.

Despite the damning findings of the report, Tory MP Stephen Barclay refused to apologise for the handling of the pandemic and continued to defend the government.

Throughout the pandemic, there has been a failure on the part of most of the media and the Labour Party leadership to criticise and hold the government to account. Starmer and the shadow cabinet spent large parts of last year supporting the government, while failing to call the government out on its failure to lock down or implement a functioning track and trace system. This report shows why this opposition was desperately needed to pressure the Tories into acting to protect lives.

This report also shows why the public inquiry must be brought forward. Tens of thousands of people have died unnecessarily, thousands more families are still grieving and all of those who have been affected by the pandemic deserve justice. The government cannot, and must not, get away with their crimes.

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