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10 Downing St. Photo: wikimedia commons

10 Downing St. Photo: wikimedia commons

It's not the public that wants to end lockdown - it's the government, argues Jamal Elaheebocus

The daily Downing Street press conferences have become progressively more ludicrous with each day. From Matt Hancock triumphantly claiming that 100,000 tests had been carried out on May 1st, while many of them were lost or in the post, to Sir Nick Carter trying in vain to show that the UK’s overfunded military has been useful during the pandemic, the briefings have been not just ridiculous, but deceptive and dangerous.

The purpose of the briefings should be to give the public clear, honest information about how the virus is spreading, the death toll, and what the government is doing and why. Instead, they have turned into state propaganda, where ministers have lied on almost every issue, and have tried to deceive us into believing the virus is under control.

The figures from the government have been blatantly not true. Data from the Financial Times shows that the number of deaths from coronavirus is likely to be 20,000 higher than what is being reported. For weeks, the number of deaths in care homes was excluded from the daily death toll, and even now, it is being grossly underestimated as most of those who have died have not been tested and so COVID-19 cannot go on their death certificate as the cause of death.

The figure for the number of PPE items distributed was also not true, as paper towels and individual gloves were counted. The 122,000 tests on 1st May included those which had not yet been carried out. On almost every crucial set of numbers, the government has lied.

The focus of ministers has been on attempting to give a false impression of how well they are responding. The Nightingale hospital is mentioned almost daily as an example of this, despite it fundamentally not catering for the demands of the pandemic. Worse than this, Matt Hancock’s introduction of the CARE badge, which NHS staff have to pay for, was clearly a tool used to distract the public from the incompetence and recklessness of the government.

The media has a role to play in this as well. Very rarely have they truly challenged the government on the testing figures, why the lockdown was implemented late, and most recently why the lockdown has been lifted while around 3,000 more people are being infected every day. This lack of scrutiny, also a feature of Keir Starmer’s “constructive criticism”, has allowed the government to go almost unchallenged while they pursue their herd immunity strategy, allowing the most vulnerable in society to be wiped out.

The media has focused on when the lockdown is going to be lifted and when people will have their freedoms restored, creating a fake atmosphere of impatience within the public. The truth, as hard as it is for the Tory government and press to accept, is that the public has for the most part obeyed all the rules of the lockdown. We have understood the danger of the virus and we have acted according to the advice we have been given. In some cases, we have acted before the government. People who knew they were vulnerable started isolating before the government suggested they should. It is the government who have been desperate to end the lockdown, not the public.

The newly introduced questions from the public appear to be carefully picked to ensure they are unchallenging and easy to answer. It is yet another attempt by the government to show they are listening to our concerns, which has been disproven by Boris Johnson’s statement last Sunday and the pursuit of the herd immunity strategy.

Given the deception and lack of scrutiny, it is therefore little surprise that the approval ratings for Johnson and his government had gone up until Sunday’s announcement, when all the government and most of the mainstream media is telling us is that it is under control and that people were always going to die, but it has not been as catastrophic as it could have been. However, Johnson seems to believe that anything below half a million deaths is not a catastrophe.

Added to this, doctors and key workers have been prevented from speaking out and telling us the truth about the lack of protection they receive and the dangers of lifting the lockdown. It therefore comes down to the non-mainstream media to report on the truth. Trade unions need to protect workers’ right to speak out without fear of losing their job and livelihood. We cannot let the government get away with this.

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