A senior BMA (British Medical Association) clinician has accused the UK government of deceit in the way it has handled the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. He also demands that prime minister Boris Johnson and health secretary Matt Hancock resign.
“A national scandal”
BMA (British Medical Association) honorary vice president Dr Kallash Chand has published a video in which he says that Johnson and Hancock have “handled the [coronavirus] crisis lazily, negligently and dishonesty (sic)”:
#Covid19UK crisis was the first major issue for @BorisJohnson , since he became PM.He and his health secretary handled the crisis,lazily,negligently and dishonesty. They need consider their positions & resign! pic.twitter.com/KLa5AWTpRS
— Dr Kailash Chand OBE (@KailashChandOBE) April 22, 2020
Chand’s concerns include under-reporting of overall deaths from the virus; lack of suitable PPE (personal protective equipment) for NHS staff; failure to meet testing targets; and delay in implementing the lockdown.
Chand describes these failures as a “national scandal” and demands that Hancock and Johnson resign.
Death figures debacle
In the video, Chand specifically accuses the government of responsibility for “excessive deaths”. According to a Financial Times (FT) report, the true number of people dying is more than double government reports. The FT investigation that Chand refers to claims that the figures relating to deaths arising from the coronavirus outbreak are now likely to be around 45,000.
Chand further criticises the way in which the numbers of deaths in care homes and the community have been withheld.
Indeed, it’s already reported that the UK is on course to have the highest death rates from the virus in Europe.
The FT investigated the number of deaths:
based on figures from the ONS… [this] includes deaths that occurred outside hospitals updated to reflect recent mortality trends.
Assuming the figures are correct, it’s shocking reading.
The UK desperately needs PPE. One mechanism to source supplies was the EU, which invited Downing Street to join its scheme. But according to the Daily Mirror:
In mid-March the European Commission confirmed Britain was still “eligible to participate in these joint procedures” despite formally leaving the EU on 31 January.
On March 26, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed that they had missed participating because of a missed communication.
On March 21, senior civil servant Simon McDonald told the UK foreign affairs committee that the decision by government not to participate in the EU’s PPE procurement scheme had been “political”:
What exactly did the government do to force Sir Simon McDonald to produce this extraordinary letter, in direct contradiction of his entirely truthful statement earlier today?
"The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth." – George Orwell, 1984 pic.twitter.com/KIoURIqLdk
— Cornwall for Europe #FBPE (@Cornwall4EU) April 21, 2020
However, Hancock denied this. And lo and behold McDonald then insisted in a letter – see the above tweet – that his statement to the committee had been “incorrect”. Subsequently, Hancock claimed the UK has now joined the EU procurement scheme. However, a spokesperson for the EU Commission has denied that:
Not so, says EU Commission spokesman @SKeersmaecker -tonight telling me UK govt *hasn’t* joined any of the EU joint procurement schemes set up amid #coronavirus response- see screenshot👇🏻 pic.twitter.com/E7V9Gx39l8
— Catherine Nicholson (@ACatInParis) April 21, 2020
As the death toll rises, these ‘misunderstandings’ continue.
On 2 April 2020, Hancock promised by end of month 100,000 [Polymerase Chain Reaction] swab tests of the virus per day:
Their weasel words have already cost you your rights, now they're costing lives. For clarity, there was NEVER a promise for capacity, the promise couldn't be clearer, "100,000 tests per day by the end of this month, that is the goal and I am determined we will get there." pic.twitter.com/5jw1VZbIZJ
— Brexitshambles (@brexit_sham) April 23, 2020
Oxford University scientists have been evaluating some of the 3.5m antibody tests Hancock bought from a number of companies. He had placed orders for a further 17.5m. The best of them are 70% accurate. Most are only right half the time. Having previously claimed that it had struck deals which meant no payment would be made until the tests were proven, the government is now trying to get its money back.
Not good enough.
The Canary reported how the government’s delay in implementing a lockdown:
The Canary also reported how England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries had said that it was fine that the Cheltenham Festival horse racing event was allowed to proceed. She also supported the government decision to keep schools open.
In retrospect, that advice and the decisions subsequently taken were wrong and no doubt cost lives.
At one of the daily briefings on the coronavirus outbreak, Harries said:
The UK, regardless of the position that we may be in now, has been an international exemplar in preparedness.
This is despite debacles over the underreporting of numbers of deaths, the insufficient procurement of first-rate PPE supplies, and inadequate testing facilities, etc.
Indeed, a Lancet editor was incredulous and accused Harries of telling “manifest untruths”:
When you see supposedly independent medical advisors to government tell what are manifest untruths to shore up a political regime whose credibility is rapidly collapsing, you have to say that those advisors have lost their integrity and our trust.
— richard horton (@richardhorton1) April 19, 2020
Johnson and Hancock and others in government must take responsibility for their advice and actions. Indeed, there are aspects of information released by the government – such as death figures – that could be described as ‘fake news’.
Add all this up and what we are witnessing is nothing less than, as Chand put it, a “national scandal” that is seeing thousands of people needlessly die.
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