Boris Johnson shamelessly uses an MP’s Covid diagnosis to plug his failed Test and Trace system

Coronavirus Boris Johnson
Eliza Egret

Boris Johnson has, once again, made news headlines for being exposed to coronavirus (Covid-19). And yet again, Downing Street appears reckless in taking the necessary precautions to prevent the virus from spreading.

Not one to miss a trick, the prime minister grabbed the opportunity to shamelessly plug the Test and Trace system in a home-made propaganda video. It’s a futile attempt to cover up just how much the Tories have failed us, and just how disgraceful the Test and Trace system has been so far.

Flouting his own rules. Again.

Tory MP Lee Anderson travelled from Nottinghamshire to meet with the prime minister inside No 10 on Thursday. Anderson subsequently tested positive for coronavirus. While the lockdown restrictions do allow people to travel for work, they also state that this is only:

where you cannot work from home.

But was it really necessary that this meeting took place in person? Why, for example, couldn’t the meeting have taken place over Zoom?

Neither man was wearing a mask, nor did it look like they two metres apart when they met, despite Johnson insisting in his video that the men were “doing social distancing”. Back in March, Johnson was also caught flouting his own rules when he contracted the virus, along with health secretary Matt Hancock.

Five other Tory MPs attended the meeting, all travelling from different parts of the country, and all from areas with much higher-than-average Covid rates. One of those visiting Downing Street was Lia Nici, MP for Great Grimsby in north-east Lincolnshire. The county had 558 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people in a latest count, while “the average area in England had 215”. So Johnson only needed the most basic common sense to insist that everyone in the meeting wore masks.

Hancock insisted that Johnson wasn’t careless. He said: “the COVID-secure guidelines for that building don’t require [wearing a mask] at all times”. But with six politicians and Johnson now having to self-isolate from just one meeting, the government urgently needs to re-evaluate these so-called guidelines.

Shamelessly plugging Test and Trace

It barely seems plausible that Johnson had to wait until he was “pinged” by Test and Trace to find out that Anderson was infected. Surely the MP’s office would have urgently notified Johnson themselves. After all, Test and Trace has been known to take days to contact people to tell them to isolate.

But even if that was the case, the prime minister is clearly using Anderson’s diagnosis to put a positive PR spin on his failed system.

In his video, Johnson seized the opportunity to say the words “NHS Test and Trace” multiple times. He said:

The good news is that NHS Test and Trace is working ever more efficiently. The bad news is that they pinged me and I’ve got to self-isolate because somebody I was in contact with a few days ago has developed Covid. And it doesn’t matter that we were all doing social distancing [really, Johnson?!] and it doesn’t matter than I’m fit as a butcher’s dog… It actually doesn’t matter that I’ve had the disease and I’m bursting with antibodies. We’ve got to interrupt the spread of the disease and one of the ways that we can do that now is by self-isolating for 14 days when you get contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

He then gushed at how wonderful the system is:

And I do it with a high heart, full of optimism and confidence because, don’t forget, we not only have this technique for interrupting the transmission of Covid, but we also now have two gigantic boxing gloves with which to wallop our foe into submission: mass lateral-flow testing, rapid turnaround testing of a kind, er, that this country is leading the way in, and we’ve got tens of millions of these tests already, and of course the prospect of a vaccine…

It’s laughable that Johnson can suggest that the UK, a country with one of the highest Covid death rates in the world, is leading the way in any aspect of fighting the virus.

Of course, Johnson also took the opportunity to spout out his much-loved slogan:

Don’t forget: hands, face, space! Get a test if you have symptoms and if NHS Test and Trace contact you and say you’ve got to self isolate then follow the rules!

You’re still sh*t, Johnson

Johnson can put a positive spin on the Test and Trace system all he likes, but the public won’t be fooled. Earlier in November, it was revealed that “four in 10 close contacts of people who tested positive are still not being reached by the [Test and Trace] system”. Meanwhile, Serco, the private company contracted to provide the system, has seen profits skyrocket.

In October, an Independent Sage scientist stated:

We wish to see the replacement of the failed, falsely named, and private sector-led NHS Test and Trace, with a system for England which is rooted in the regions of England and in local areas. It must be integrated throughout with the National Health Service, and must provide for the needs of people and the communities in which they live.

No amount of PR spin can fool us into forgetting the Tories’ multiple failings throughout 2020. Back in March Johnson said he “shook hands with everybody” who had coronavirus. The Tories wanted to let the virus “move through the community“, and removed coronavirus’s classification as a high consequence infectious disease.

So you can continue to make your propaganda videos, Johnson, but you’re wasting your energy.

Featured image via Pixabay / ITV News (screengrab)

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Eliza Egret