On Wednesday 16 June, in answer to a question about the coronavirus (Covid-19) Delta variant, Boris Johnson gave incomplete, if not misleading information. No surprise there. In this instance what Johnson was trying to hide was his government’s abject failure to delay the outbreak of this variant. The tragic consequence of that failure will be many more deaths.
All about dates
On 16 June, during prime minister’s question time, Labour leader Keir Starmer asked Johnson if keeping borders open added to the spread of the Delta variant in the UK.
We put India on the red list on 23 April, and the delta variant was not so identified until 28 April and was only identified as a variant of concern on 7 May.
However, Led By Donkeys tweeted a video the day before suggesting a more nuanced timetable from 24 March onwards. It points to the Johnson government’s failure in dealing with the Delta variant threat:
Delta Farce: How Boris Johnson's incompetent handling of the new variant extended lockdown pic.twitter.com/BrdS9K4Sai
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— Led By Donkeys (@ByDonkeys) June 15, 2021
Starmer responded to Johnson:
The Prime Minister talks about the dates. Let us go through the dates. On 24 March, a new variant was reported in India. On 1 April, India was reporting over 100,000 new infections a day, and rising. But the Prime Minister kept India off the red list until 23 April. In that time, 20,000 people came into the UK from India. What on earth did the Prime Minister expect would be the le showing location ofconsequences of that?
He later said:
It is because of [Johnson’s] indecision that our borders stayed open. It is because of his indecision that India stayed off the red list. It is because of his indecision that in that period 20,000 people came to this country from India.
The first B.1.617 genome in the global database (GISAID) dates back to 5 Oct 2020. India has submitted the most B.1.617 genomes, following in frequency by UK and the US. Based on genome information, B.1.617 was first detected in the UK on 22 Feb 2021
Meanwhile, a 25 April update by the World Health Organisation clarified that B.1.617.2 (Delta variant) was first identified in December 2020.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth tweeted that Johnson allowed thousands to enter the UK from India:
6. Figures from the Civil Aviation Authority suggest that at least 20,000 passengers who could have been infected with the Delta arrived from India in the time India was left off: https://t.co/MhaKK6KGXw
— Jonathan Ashworth 😷💙 (@JonAshworth) June 14, 2021
Between March 25 and April 7, 3,391 travellers who flew from India to England were tested for Covid. Of the 172 who tested positive, around half (52%) were thought to have variants of concern or variants under investigation.
The Mirror added that “between April 8 and April 24, 3,212 travellers” from India to the UK were tested for the virus. Moreover, “61% of those [were] thought to have variants under investigation or of concern”.
Professor Christina Pagel, Independent Sage member and director of University College London’s Clinical Operational Research Unit, tweeted her disbelief:
1. The situation in India is very bad and worsening. https://t.co/SNd4D5dRPR…
— Prof. Christina Pagel (@chrischirp) April 14, 2021
But it wasn’t until 23 April that a travel ban between India and the UK came into force. At the time Johnson seemed more concerned with his post-Brexit deal, which allows young Indians to live and work in the UK.
Lies, cronyism, and corruption
Misleading parliament is arguably no different to telling lies. And in a just world, it ought to be a resignation matter. But Johnson is an inveterate liar, and it seems he can say whatever he wants and still get away with it.
Indeed, he has lied to parliament on numerous occasions. You only have to look at this list of 60 lies to see how wide-ranging his deceitfulness is.
That’s not forgetting the numerous cases of ‘cronyism’. Or perhaps a better term is institutionalised corruption – as our Investigations team has .
But this isn’t just about government deceit.
There’s a practice in scientific circles called horizon scanning. According to the Horizon Scanning Experts Blog, it’s a “heavily data-driven activity requiring a meticulous process of collecting information and evidence, interpreting and validating the findings, and using them to make informed decisions and policies”. In other words, it’s the opposite of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
The latest Public Health England report states that the number of UK Delta variant cases has now exceeded 75,000. Had the government practised horizon scanning in regard to the emerging variants, the UK may have stopped travel to and from India well before 23 April. And so, Johnson would have bought time for far more of the population to have been vaccinated, providing greater protection against the variant.
At the end of a Twitter thread on the coronavirus roadmap and the Delta variant, Pagel concludes:
23. The policies that allowed Delta to become dominant in 8 weeks & lack of govt interest in actually reducing cases, will now lead to more ill health, more strain on the NHS and more deaths.
We should be furious. /END
— Prof. Christina Pagel (@chrischirp) June 15, 2021
We should all be furious. Though that will not be enough.
Featured image via YouTube – The Telegraph
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