It's a fact that the UK, to date has been one of the most badly hit by the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Despite having one of the longest lockdowns in the world, we've had over 4.5 million cases and more than 125,000 deaths since the pandemic started and we're still not out of the woods yet.
Do you think our government, spearheaded by PM Boris Johnson fell asleep at the wheel, or do you think he's been on point and risen to the challenges, or somewhere in between?
The Prime Minister has said on numerous occasions that the UK Government has done 'everything' they could have done to tackle the crisis. As the death toll passed 100,000 he spoke before the nation and said he was 'deeply sorry for every life that has been lost'.
The PM has made some mistakes but has also done some things right. The question is, has he done enough to secure a legacy that will remember him for being the statesman who took control of the country during unprecedented times and did everything possible to save lives and livelihoods or will his name be etched in the memory of everyone that has lived through this time as the clown (as portrayed in the Daily Star) that made a bad situation much worse?
No one is perfect. Every government around the world has made some mistakes trying to tackle this pandemic so let's look at a few our PM is guilty of.
PM Boris Johnson's Mistakes
- He failed to lockdown when advised by government scientists to
Four days after the first confirmed cases in the UK, the PM didn't want to shut down the economy. In fact he made it so clear about his intentions when he said Britain would be 'the supercharged champion of the right of the populations of the earth to buy and sell freely among each other'.
- Absent from numerous COBRA Meetings.
It was reported on numerous occasions that our PM failed to turn up to crucial COBRA (The Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms) meetings where strategies are discussed and actioned.
- Hand shaking when advice was not to.
On the same day government advisors were warning people to stop shaking hands to slow the spread of coronavirus, our PM Mr Johnson was pictured shaking hands with people while visiting a hospital and he even boasted about it.
- Locking down too late on more than one occasion.
Just before the first lockdown, Mr Johnson was accused of dithering to order the lockdown. The general consensus is that he stalled for a few days that turned out to be crucial for the spread of the virus. During those few days, big events such as The Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid were allowed to go ahead. The impact of which is said to have been a major contributor to the infection being properly seeded throughout the country.
- care home crisis
It was common knowledge that the elderly and infirm were and still are much more vulnerable to losing their life to Coronavirus, yet BJ's government somehow allowed elderly people to be discharged from hospitals into care homes to free up beds. The kicker is, those elderly people weren't tested before being discharged back into the care home, which gave the virus unmetered access to spread amongst other residents, resulting in a vast number of deaths. To date, almost a third of coronavirus deaths have been in care homes.
- Travel corridors shambles
While other countries around the world were shutting their borders to all but essential travel, BJ and his cabinet came up with a plan to create travel corridors with countries where the infection rate was low. This turned out to be a huge mistake, which contributed to the spread of the virus not just here from returning holidaymakers, but also in the so-called 'safe' countries too. Clearly, it was way too early on in the pandemic to even consider recreational travel.
- Botched Christmas & Eat out to help out
In the run-up to Christmas 2020, scientists from SAGE were advising the government that if Christmas was to go ahead without any restrictions, it would result in a high number of infections and ultimately deaths. The PM was determined to not be the Prime Minister to steal Christmas, so he left it until the very last minute and eventually caved in and ordered the lockdown. Sadly though, there was lots of mixing in the weeks running up to Christmas, which did take its toll. Plus, millions of people lost out on money they spent planning get-togethers they thought would be allowed to go ahead. The Eat-out-to-help-out scheme that was rolled out in the summer of 2020 was responsible for 1000s of new infections and deaths in the winter months.
- Mask wearing & PPE Fiasco
For reasons unknown to the scientist community outside of the UK, our PM and his scientists decided there was little benefit of covering your face with a mask or face covering to slow the spread of coronavirus. Literally, every other country in Europe and most states in America were enforcing face covering while we were dithering. In terms of the PPE, that was a global problem that affected every government in the world. Where Bojo's government went wrong was to think they had more than enough PPE to give away. They foolishly sent 600,000 items of PPE to China to help the Wuhan outbreak, just days before NHS staff were inundated with sick people and running out of PPE.
- Test & Trace App Fumble
The PM's Health Secretary Matt Hancock stood before the nation in a Coronavirus press conference and said the UK was going it alone and building its own 'World Beating' Test & Trace App. FAIL! The app was plagued with tech issues which they blamed on Apple and Google. In the end, they went with hat in hand to Apple and Google, asking to use their technology for the Test & Trace app. Still to this day, the NHS Test & Trace App is drenched in criticism, with claims that it's been a colossal waste of money.
Those are just some of the very bad mistakes PM Boris Johnson made during the first 12 months of the pandemic, not least the Dominic Cummings lockdown trip up north and during the lockdown, which went a long way towards undermining trust in government officials. However, there are also some things the government was praised for.
Positive actions by Boris Johnson during the pandemic
- The furlough (Job retention scheme)
There is no doubt that the UK furlough system was one of the most generous support packages in the world. The PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak set aside vast sums of tax-payers money (£61.3 billion) to safeguard 2.4 million jobs. Without this generous scheme, the economy would have nosedived and the bounceback would have taken decades instead of years.
- The Vaccine Rollout
As soon as it was evident that viable vaccines were in the pipeline, the government to their credit acted very swiftly and secured enough vaccines to innoculate the entire country five times over. Securing enough vaccine was only the first step. Mobilising the NHS and volunteers to administer them at such an efficient rate was a feat of epic proportions. The UK left European countries in the dust as we steamed ahead with our vaccine rollout.
Unfortunately for the PM those are the only two great things he's managed to accomplish during the pandemic so far. However, they are quite epic acts of governance which for some people negates all the wrongs he has presided over.
The bar chart above shows how much money in the millions was claimed by UK companies through the job retention scheme from April 2020 to April 2021. The graph shows a steady incline in claims as the restrictions caused by the pandemic remained in place for several months.
Finally, we are seeing deaths due to Covid-19 on the decline, but infections are climbing again very slowly as restrictions are being eased. The government still has some very difficult decisions to make which are made more complex with the emerging variants that vaccines may not be as effective against.
Boris Johnson admits failings but focuses on achievments
Boris to his credit has admitted making mistakes, but he would much rather focus on the achievements he has spearheaded. At the time of writing this article, the PM pinned this Twitter post, thanking the British public for coming forward for their vaccinations.
Thanks for reading and please do stay safe and cautious as restrictions are eased so that we never have to go through another horrible lockdown again.