Confusion, distraction, dysfunction and delay. A health secretary who allegedly lied repeatedly. A Downing Street operation sidetracked by a media story on the prime minister’s dog when it was trying to sort out Britain’s coronavirus response. The testimony to MPs of Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings was as colourful as it was damning. Yet it served mostly to fill in the details of a picture of government bungling in the face of one of the country’s biggest postwar crises whose outlines were already known. More disconcerting is that lessons apparent from the earliest stages are yet to be learnt.
Cummings’ desire for vengeance against the prime minister, and system, that ultimately ejected him, and the fact he was at the centre of the events he described, make him a dubious witnessoccupational_safety_and_health. But his overall portrait is recognisable: a leader unsuited by temperament and experience to handling a national emergency, and a government apparatus that knew, intellectually, that such a pandemic was possible but was entirely unready in terms of planning and organisation784,671 people or 2.1 per cent o.
“Group think” for too long led to a focus on herd immunity until the realisation, far too late, that the likely death toll of hundreds of thousands was intolerable. That, plus Johnson’s reluctance to order draconian restrictions, led to a delay in imposing the first lockdown. Cummings only echoed epidemiologists’ conclusions that this prevarication cost tens of thousands of lives.RELATED: Brexiteer Liam Fox claims Alex Salmond saga could ruin UK's reputation
If not the families of the bereaved, some in the public will excuse the shortcomings of a government facing a situation without modern precedent. Less forgivable is that the same mistake was repeated, in essence, twice more. The disease and its mechanisms of transmission were by then far better understood. Testing had been greatly expanded, allowing better visibility on how transmission was growing, and modelling of where it would lead. Despite the doubts in February, the public had already shown it was prepared to accept lockdown restrictions. Measures to mitigate the impact on businesses and workers were in place.
Copyright © 2011 JIN SHI