Health secretary Matt Hancock’s response to COVID-19 isn’t fooling anyone

Health secretary Matt Hancock

Health secretary Matt Hancock is facing a barrage of criticism for his recent statements on the government’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19). As the pandemic grows, the government appears either incapable or just unwilling to respond effectively.

On 14 March, Hancock published a statement on the government’s COVID-19 policy. But in typical Tory fashion, he thought it would be a good idea to do so exclusively behind a (now lifted) paywall:


Conflicting messages

Hancock claimed in his article that “herd immunity is not a part” of the government’s plan to deal with COVID-19. This directly contradicts the message chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance sent on BBC Radio 4 just days before on 13 March:

Hancock claims that: “The over-riding objective is to protect life”. On 12 March, in a post-COBRA meeting press conference, the prime minister himself said “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time”.

On 15 March, appearing on Ridge on Sky News and then Marr on the BBC, Hancock admitted to the UK being unprepared for the toll this pandemic will take. Particularly he spoke of a shortage of ventilators and the trained staff needed to operate them:

As it stands, the UK has only 6.6 ventilator beds per 100k people, compared with 29.2 beds per 100k in Germany. In the midst of a pandemic where those most at risk usually die from respiratory failure, the lack of ventilator beds is worrying, to say the least.

Amid this chaos, the government’s ability to effectively deal with COVID-19 is becoming increasingly questionable:

NHS crisis

The fact remains that due to a decade of austerity inflicted by the Tories, the NHS is already facing an unprecedented crisis. One that no amount of urgent appeals for ventilators will fix:

What’s worse, the government is still putting private business interests first. At a time when the government should demand that private hospitals make their services available, it wants to funnel public funding towards private healthcare by ‘renting‘ bed spaces instead:

A better plan is possible

There are so many issues in successfully tackling the emerging crisis that Hancock hasn’t addressed. The importance of social distancing has been stressed repeatedly by scientists, but the government still won’t introduce social distancing, including school closures, for another 5 to 20 days. Testing could be made much more accessible based on the South Korea model, but the government is unwilling to put resources towards this. Instead the NHS is only prioritising testing for people at risk of falling severely ill from the disease. And through it all, people are facing additional anxiety over sick leave:

And some people on Twitter actually seem to have a better plan to deal with the social impact of COVID-19 than the government itself:

In a time of so much uncertainty, one thing’s for sure. The UK may be among the world’s wealthiest countries. But the government needs to do a lot more for its people through this global health emergency.

Featured image via YouTube -Sky News

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