8 Months of Blunders

BY JAMES MELVILLE

Ever since the start of the Coronavirus crisis, the UK government has lurched from one shambolic mistake to another. Their entire approach appears to be based on hindsight rather than foresight. 

They wilfully attempted to ramp up fear levels by using doomsday scenario charts and applied flawed methodology to create a fanciful worst-case scenario that was presented as a real possibility – which was then parroted by an often-obsequious media.

The question is: what were the government hoping to achieve? Did they think everyone would simply look at the charts and freak out? Or did they assume we’re all so terrified already we’d just blindly take those charts at face value?

The government has mismanaged virtually every aspect of the pandemic. This has caused widespread confusion and panic. We have the worst government at exactly the worst time.

The government has created, overseen and amplified a shambles on the Coronavirus crisis for 8 months:

  • Sending infected patients back to care homes to spread the virus round a vulnerable cohort.
  • Cancelling exams that could have been held in Covid-secure halls and then overseeing a shambles on A-level results.
  • Failing to get children back into school in June.
  • Failing to develop a functioning test / track/ trace system – for 8 months. Germany managed to have this in place within weeks of the start of the pandemic.
  • Failure to effectively roll out the NHS volunteers programme – despite 700,000 people signing up.
  • Total mismanagement and wasted expenditure over the PPE procurement programme.
  • Allowing the UK to become one of the only countries in the world not to have a test and quarantine programme at airports.
  • A total lack of a consistent and coherent strategy with inconsistent and unworkable rules such as the rule of six and the 10pmpub curfew.
  • Creating a wider health crisis with reports of empty hospitals, GP surgeries and delayed treatments and operations for non-Covid patients. 
  • Almost one million women in the UK may have missed breast screening due to Covid19. Breast screening programmes were paused in March as the NHS focused resources on the pandemic. Around 8,600 women who have not had a scan now have undetected breast cancer.
  • Up to 50,000 people in the UK have cancer that has not been diagnosed due to health care disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • ONS data to mid-September showed that about a third more deaths than usual — 25,472 — took place in English homes this year including a:
  • There is also a looming NHS staffing crisis created by the government. Thousands of foreign NHS staff visas have started expiring. The government has vetoed an extension to the deadline.
  • The government are also letting good businesses go to the wall. Any business that is being forced to close or function well under capacity because of the government’s COVID-19 response measures should be financially protected. None of this is their fault and the government has a moral obligation to protect them.

The government’s only strategy seems to be: deny everything, acknowledge nothing, blame everyone else (especially the public), overpromise and underdeliver. A negligent mantra of: ‘it barely matters…soon people will forget’.

Watching a weak, incompetent, bizarrely unaccountable government repeatedly mismanage a crisis really wakes you up to the powerlessness of the individual in times of trouble.

James Melville is Managing Director of the communications consultancy, East Points West, based on Cornwall, London and Scotland. He also regularly writes for Al Jazeera.