Covid-19: rain of criticism on the management of the British government

The truce is over. It will have lasted less than a fortnight. Hospitalization then the transfer to intensive care of Boris Johnson on April 6 had somewhat dried up press and political criticism of the management of the Covid-19 crisis by the British government. As the overall toll of the pandemic continued to worsen, the United Kingdom remained suspended from the development of its Prime Minister’s health. Boris Johnson, tested positive with coronavirus on March 26, went out of business. He spent three days in intensive care where he was never intubated. He is now recuperating in the Checkers ‘mansion, the Prime Ministers’ country residence north-west of London, where he is resting alongside his partner, Carrie Symonds, pregnant with the couple’s first child.

The date of his return to business is not yet known, but criticism of his government and himself in particular, long before he became ill, is growing. A very long article from Sunday Times, released this Sunday, has placed the government on the defensive. All day long, Conservative ministers and MPs have tried to put out the fire. Without much success.

Obsession with Brexit

The newspaper lists a number of impressive failures since the start of the epidemic. He highlights the government’s very clear refusal to take it seriously and a crucial lack of preparation linked to the last ten years of austerity but also to attention – an obsession – focused exclusively on … Brexit and its realization January 31. Absent or deficient tests, protective equipment for missing health workers, shortage of respirators, the article describes a series of dizzying failings, partly linked to a “Confident, almost nonchalant attitude” posted at the end of January and “For more than a month thereafter”.

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The last simulation of a pandemic in the country dates from 2016, reveals the Sunday Times. At the time, she warned of a collapse of the health service and a critical lack of safety equipment and respirators. The recommendations to address these shortcomings have never been applied “, notably, notes a source in the newspaper, because preparations for a Brexit without agreement have taken precedence over those for a pandemic.”

At this time, only one in seven caregivers in hospitals believes they have adequate protective equipment, according to a YouGov survey. More than 50 National Health Service (NHS) health workers have died from Covid-19. In addition, while 105,000 travelers continue to land at British airports every week, some from the United States, China or Italy, no control or prevention measures have been put in place. Arrivals are not required to place themselves in quarantine and customs officials not equipped with protective equipment. Two of them, who worked at London Heathrow Airport, died of Covid-19.

Concerned about his personal life

Boris Johnson is particularly targeted by the Sunday Times. And in particular his repeated absences at crucial moments of the crisis. At the beginning of January, when the first alarming reports from China were increasing, the Prime Minister continued his fifteen days of vacation on the millionaire island of Mosquito, in the Caribbean. In January and February, he will not shine his absence at five COBRA meetings (acronym for Cabinet Office Briefing Room), a summit meeting organized in the event of a crisis around the main ministers and protagonists. It’s not until March 2 that Boris Johnson will attend his first COBRA meeting.

Meanwhile, the second half of February, he is on vacation again, in the Chevering mansion, the country residence of the Foreign Ministers. According to Sunday Times, he was concerned about his personal life and how to announce the pregnancy of his 32-year-old partner and his next marriage to his four children, born from his second marriage to Marina Wheeler, from whom he is not yet divorced. “His advisers were instructed to shorten the size of their reports and their number if they wanted them to be read.”

The Sunday newspaper notably spoke to a Downing Street adviser. “It is impossible to wage a war if your Prime Minister is absent”, he told the weekly. “What you learn from Boris is that he doesn’t chair any meetings. He likes his breaks in the countryside. He does not work weekends […]. There was a real feeling that he is not in urgent crisis planning. “

The heaviest record in Europe?

Another article on Saturday Financial times this time, on the fiasco of the manufacturing of the missing respirators, also heavily questioned “Inconsistency, lost time and political selfishness” of the government. The government’s attempts to defend itself, through an endless press release posted on Twitter or in television interviews, have not really convinced.

Tuesday, the British parliament should resume its work, mainly by videoconference. Government to Respond to Questions from Reinvigorated Labor Opposition by the election of Keir Starmer as its head. The latest assessment of the epidemic in the United Kingdom amounts to 16,060 deaths in hospitals, to which must be added at least 4,000 people who have died in retirement homes, according to the National Care Forum. The government still does not provide statistics on deaths in retirement homes or homes.

On March 17, Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the government, affirmed that 20,000 dead for a total assessment of the epidemic would be “A good result”. This number, even if the curve seems to flatten in recent days, will already be exceeded. The UK could have the worst record in Europe at the end of this crisis.

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Sonia Delesalle-Stolper Correspondent in London

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