On the twelfth month of Covid, Boris gave to me...
Among all of 2020’s crazy events, the impact of Covid-19 has taken centre stage of every news bulletin. Even Brexit has been overshadowed in the British media by the government’s chaotic handling of the pandemic, giving us plenty to reflect on at the end of a year we will never forget. What better time than Christmas to look back at Boris & Co.’s biggest blunders of the year.
In the twelve months of Covid, Boris gave to us…
12) Mid-pandemic public events
Despite warnings coming in from across the world and from the WHO about the threat of Covid-19, in mid-March the government failed to cancel public mass gatherings such as Cheltenham Festival. Excuses at the time ranged from a supposed lack of evidence on social distancing to worries over prolonged restrictions leading to a lack of compliance. Considering some restrictions are still in place nine months later, the fatigue argument seems nonsensical when they were debating for the sake of just a few more non-lockdown days. Upon reflection, giving these potential super-spreader events the go-ahead may have been a sign of things to come from the government in their coronavirus response.
11) Herd immunity discussions
At the beginning of the crisis, even with other countries entering full lockdowns, the government were still entertaining the idea of herd immunity, only backtracking after receiving backlash from the public. The idea of herd immunity with a disease far more deadly to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions would have allowed the majority to live a life closer to normality, while more vulnerable people would have been confined to their own homes. This exclusionary tactic would have been unnecessarily cruel, given how a similar stance was adopted in Sweden and provided little success.
10) Doctors without PPE
As hospital admissions rose, lack of bed space wasn’t the only concern for the NHS. Despite the continuing denial by the government, hospital staff were running out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Some workers had to fashion makeshift protective gear from household objects such as bin liners in order to protect themselves while treating patients with the highly infectious disease. But not to worry, the government promised to provide them with adequate supplies in due course…
9) Dodgy contracts
To solve the PPE scarcity issue, the government awarded billions of pounds to private companies to produce PPE for the NHS, with many of these companies lacking experience in producing medical grade protective equipment. Among these purchases was an order for 50m masks for NHS workers - all of which turned out to be unsuitable for use in a medical environment.
8) Overambitious testing goals
When hospitalisation rates were at their peak, the government sought to amp up their testing capabilities and set out ambitious - seemingly unachievable - goals for the numbers to be tested. Surprisingly, they managed to reach their daily testing goal of 100,000. Unsurprisingly, their measurements had been given a “creative” interpretation to include tens of thousands of tests that had been posted out to people and not yet taken.
7) Boris Johnson handshakes
Going back to the start of the UK’s Covid crisis, we had the prime minister appearing on talk shows and visiting hospitals. Despite the early advice of maintaining distance and handwashing, Boris boasted about shaking hands with everyone he met. It was no surprise, therefore, that soon after this statement Boris Johnson would, himself, be diagnosed with the virus, ending up in a serious condition in hospital.
6) Excel meltdowns
Following the theme of dodgy contracts and figure fudging, one of the biggest, most recent scandals was how 16,000 cases of coronavirus were missed in the daily case figures in England. These figures went unreported for eight days, much longer than the ideal contact tracing window of 48 hours. Yet what was more humiliating for the government was the cause of this technical error; those trusted to handle the data were using a version of Microsoft Excel so old that it had a limited quantity of rows, meaning any excess cases could not be entered and went unnoticed.
5) Prime minister’s push-ups
In contrast to the photographs of Boris Johnson severely unwell in a hospital bed, he wanted to reconstruct his image to be one of a fighting-fit leader, ready to battle this virus head on. To prove his strength, rather than introduce effective measures to fight the virus in the UK, he had someone record a video of him doing press-ups in his office. Just what a country with a crashing economy and a global pandemic on its hands needed.
4) Ridiculous innuendos
Rishi Sunak came up with a new idea to save hospitality over the summer. The jury is still out on whether or not this idea contributed to the second wave of the virus but, in essence, it finally seemed that the government were doing something right. As to be expected, it was not without a gaffe or two, with the main one being the name of the scheme which begs the question: what marketing exec allowed them to go ahead with the blatant innuendo of “Eat Out to Help Out”?
3) Zoom malfunctions
For the second time, Boris Johnson came in close contact with someone carrying the virus in November and was forced to self-isolate. This meant he had to do his governmental duties digitally, but that should have proved no issue so late on in the pandemic, as we were all by that point more accustomed to Zoom and Microsoft Teams than we would have liked. Not for this government. During prime minister’s questions, Matt Hancock had to step in due to technical malfunctions on Johnson’s side of the call, showing the government to not be quite as up to speed with Zoom as the rest of us are by now.
2) Clap for Carers
Back at the beginning, to boost public morale and show support for our NHS, every Thursday neighbours would (distantly) gather to clap for those risking their health to save the country. However you may feel about the movement, to see politicians take part and promote this event, yet fail to offer them the support or any kind of reward they deserved, was blatant virtue signalling. To follow this with an announcement of a public sector pay cut for those key workers caused even more outrage.
1) Unconventional eye test
Finally, for one of the most bizarre and outrageous stories of the year. This time, from ex-advisor Dominic Cummings. Showing that it truly was one rule for them and another for us, at the height of the pandemic, Covid-positive Cummings made a round trip from London to Durham. As part of this break he visited Barnard Castle with his family, flouting the lockdown rules he had helped create. Consequently, he faced public uproar and was forced to explain his actions in a press conference. Expecting his resignation, what the public actually got was the excuse that he went to the castle to test his eyesight before a long drive. What else to do when you can’t see than drive 30 miles on public roads to test your eyes? At least Specsavers got some new free twitter adverts.
…and two million with coronavirus.