Priti Patel Reckons The Government Has Been 'Ahead Of The Curve' In Its Covid Response

Here is a check on the home secretary's claim – featuring lockdown, face masks, Test and Trace and Christmas rules.

Interviewed on the BBC’s Today programme, the home secretary was asked about the chief scientific advisor’s warning on Monday that it was critical to to “get ahead” of the new mutant strain of coronavirus detected in the UK.

Patel replied: “Well the government has consistently throughout this year been ahead of the curve in terms of proactive measures in regard in terms of coronavirus measures.”

On Saturday the government held a last-minute press conference in which it announced London and the south-east of England would be put into new, tougher tier 4 restrictions.

The move came after nine months of Boris Johnson assuring the UK that some semblance of a normal Christmas would be possible.

Pressed on the apparent last-minute nature of the tier 4 announcement, Patel said: “Well there was nothing last minute in terms of the work undertaken by government in terms of planning and preparing for tier 4.

“These are big decisions that are taken collectively by the government based on scientific advice.”

Patel’s assertion that the government has been “ahead of the curve” in its response to the coronavirus pandemic is questionable given the UK’s huge death toll and multiple botched policies and 18 significant U-turns.

Late lockdown

At the very beginning of the pandemic, the UK was far later to impose a lockdown than its European counterparts and by the end of the summer had the highest death toll in Europe.

Experts have explicitly stated the late implementation of lockdown “cost a lot of lives”.


Test and Trace

Around the same time the government promised a “world-beating” test and trace system to help fight the pandemic.

It wasn’t and, nine months and billions of pounds later, still isn’t “world-beating” and the government had to fudge the numbers to make it look like they’d hit their targets.

On April 2, Hancock set a goal of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month and at government’s daily briefing on May 1, he said testing figures had hit 122,347 on April 30.

However, the figures included the number of home tests (27,497) that had been sent out as well as the number of tests sent out to satellite sites (12,872).

Tracing has also been woefully bad. The service only hit its own 80% target for the first time last week, more than six months after launching.

Face masks

Face masks in shops are only being made mandatory on July 24 after months of dithering, marking a U-turn on previous policy.

The move followed a weekend of confusion over whether ministers intended to make face coverings compulsory after Boris Johnson said they were looking at “stricter” rules.

In the early days of the pandemic, ministers and the government’s scientific advisers repeatedly played down the value of face coverings, saying the evidence on the benefits was thin.

BAME communities

The government has been accused of letting down Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, who have been worse hit by coronavirus than their white counterparts despite repeated warnings that was the case.

That has already been the subject of a review, but it was heavily criticised for containing little new information and making no recommendations.

The politicians

So it may come as a surprise to learn that in October 2019, an extensive report two years in the making placed the US and the UK first and second respectively in a global ranking of countries’ pandemic preparedness.

Even more impressively, Britain led the world in a sub-section on a country’s ability to respond rapidly and halt the spread of of devastating diseases.

So what went wrong?

In short, everyone did what they were supposed to when Covid-19 hit – except the politicians.

Asked about the biggest factor in the current situation facing the UK, one of the report’s authors Jessica Bell, said: “If I was going to put my finger on any one large influencer, it would be the political leadership.”


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