COVID––the cold brutal truth In January 2020, international news was breaking that a new viral infection called the coronavirus had spread from Wuhan China, and the first cases were appearing in Europe. Asked what he planned to do about it, if anything, the U.K.’s new prime minister and Trump wannabe Boris Johnson replied that the U.K. was in no immediate danger, there was no need to panic and that his government would keep a watching brief of the rapidly spreading virus. By February 2020, the U.K. had its first confirmed coronavirus cases, and the source was traced back to a London-based businessman who’d recently been to China on business, stopped off in Switzerland, before returning to London U.K. U.K. scientists and clinicians implored Boris Johnson and his government to act immediately, by locking down the country to bring the surging COVID infection rates under control. They also advised the closing of the U.K. borders and quarantining for two weeks anyone entering the country. Johnson resisted these calls until the deceased bodies started to pile up and the U.K. hospitals were full to breaking point with COVID patients. SEVEN WEEKS after first being told the U.K. needed to go into lockdown, Johnson finally acted, but not before the U.K. had registered 30000+ dead from COVID. The lockdown lasted 2 months, and the infection and death rates fell dramatically. Johnson then set out a roadmap to reopen the U.K. The scientists told Johnson it was too soon, and that we should keep the borders closed, stop anyone leaving the U.K. unless absolutely necessary and to be cautious and slowly reopen businesses and services one step at a time. Johnson again decided to ignore the scientists. He ordered the schools to reopen, and encouraged Britons to go on their summer holidays and resume their lives. As predicted, as soon as the summer break was over, rates of COVID began to skyrocket. This was further exacerbated by children and students returning to schools and colleges in September 2020. By September 16, 2020, the U.K.’s R-Rate (rates of infection) had risen to 1.5. Anything over 1.0 shows the rates of infection are on an upward trajectory. At the same time, New Zealand who’d also been in lockdown with closed borders since February had begun to reopen their country. It was said when they brought in their stringent, extended lockdown, that it was too much, and would ruin their economy. However, at this point, because NZ’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acted so swiftly and decisively, New Zealand had only registered 25 deaths, as opposed to the U.K. who were staring at 70,000 dead. On Sept. 26, Johnson announced that the U.K. would not be going back into another lockdown, but instead would employ a tactic of localized lockdowns, to be actioned where and when rates of infection and deaths were spiraling. A war of words commenced between the scientists and clinicians who warned him of thousands more deaths throughout the winter, unless he acted nationally straight away. Johnson resisted the calls for this, and even suggested that everyone was free to do as they pleased throughout the Christmas break. However, after a close inspection of the disastrous U.S. Thanksgiving break where rates of infections and deaths rocketed, Johnson was forced to bring in some restrictions for the U.K. Christmas break. Johnson got into a war of words with the scientists and clinicians again, and it was only on Christmas week that Johnson finally put the U.K. back into a full lockdown, and restricted people from travelling and socializing. The delays from September to the final week of December is estimated to have cost the U.K. a further 55,000 unnecessary deaths. Johnson is a gambler by nature, and a reckless one at that. The proposed vaccines had just completed the testing phase, but Johnson was happy to start a mass vaccination program BEFORE the trial results had properly been peer reviewed and assessed. As it turns out, the risk he took gave the U.K. an advantage over the rest of the world. Vaccine options were abundant, and the program to mass vaccinate the U.K. population began in earnest. At first the vaccination program was a complete shambles. Instead of leaving the organization of the vaccine program to the National Health Service, politicians thought they could organize the program better. They couldn’t, so after ANOTHER delay stretching to weeks, the NHS were finally tasked with the responsibility to get as many people vaccinated, as quickly as possible. The belated decision to start the vaccination program early, and to leave the vaccines to be administered by the NHS, are the only bits of credit that could be attributed to Boris Johnson. Along the way though, there were scandals. The U.K. wasted BILLIONS on a failed Track and Trace app which never worked and was scrapped before its rollout. Hundreds of millions were wasted on PPE which was substandard, and had to be destroyed as not being fit for purpose. Where’s the scandal? The contracts for the failed PPE and Track and Trace app were awarded to Conservative Party donors, and friends of cabinet ministers. The money wasted on these failed programs has never been recovered! In February 2021, Boris Johnson set out his roadmap to reopening the U.K. AGAIN! This time the plan was to open in stages, and to review each stage as the milestone was reached, but there was another problem on the horizon, the India-derived Delta variant. In the U.K., we saw pictures of dead bodies lining the streets of India. We saw mass funeral pyres, with thousands of bodies being burned in mass graves. Scientists pleaded with Johnson to put India on the U.K.’s Red List of countries, meaning a total ban on anyone from there coming to the U.K., but there was a political problem. Because of Brexit, the U.K. now found itself scrambling around the globe, hastily trying to cobble together new trade deals, to replace the ones we lost through no longer being an EU member. The U.K. had given up £500 billion of trade with the EU, only to be replaced with trade deals in the hundreds of millions. With India identified as being an important future trading partner, Johnson didn’t want to risk trade negotiations and insulting the Indians by closing U.K. borders to them. The standoff between Johnson and the scientists continued. To appease the scientist Johnson put Bangladesh and Pakistan of the Red List, but left the epicenter of India of the Delta strain off the list altogether. After massive political and media pressure, Johnson finally relented. He cancelled his planned trade trip to India, and placed them on the Red List, but not before giving all U.K. citizens two weeks to get back to the U.K. During this period, 20,000 people from India arrived in the U.K., bringing the Delta variant with them. The Delta variant is now the dominant strain in the U.K., and now accounts for 95% of all new COVID cases. India is finally on the U.K. Red List, but what’s the point? It’s an open secret the Red List only applies to direct flights. Many infected Indians are known to be flying to countries where India isn’t on the Red List, and those passengers are legally taking connecting flights into the U.K. anyway, bypassing quarantine and spreading the Delta strain even further. Currently cases in the U.K. are doubling every two weeks, but thankfully rates of hospital admissions may have rocketed, but they’re nowhere near the levels seen during the first two 2020 lockdowns. Scientists say this is because 80% of U.K. adults have had at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, and 60% have had both doses. This shows that the vaccine is very effective, and is working to keep COVID under control. In comparison to where we were, COVID rates and deaths may be doubling every two weeks, but from the height of 3-4,000 dying per week from COVID, the U.K. is currently averaging 20 COVID deaths per day. However, just tonight Johnson has just confirmed that the plans to ditch all COVID restrictions on July 19 are still going ahead. New Health Secretary Savid Javid claimed that we have to accept that COVID is here to stay, and that there will be many more deaths because of it, but in their opinion the continued restrictions are causing more harm to the economy and the populations’ mental and emotional health, than if we allowed everything to return to normal. Can you just imagine if a government said the same thing, but swapped COVID for smallpox? The scientists and clinicians are utterly stunned by these announcements today, considering the rates of infections and deaths are doubling every two weeks and showing no signs of abating. It’s like Groundhog Day here in the U.K. Incompetence, followed by more incompetence, followed by more incompetence. You really couldn’t make this up!
Anthony Stevens is an England-based marketing director for Creative Media Mavericks, dealing with clients who are directly affected by Brexit and the pandemic on a daily basis.