Covid: “Late & limp Government ‘response package’ is just waffle”

Posted on: 27th August 2021

Response to this evening’s announced Government response to high levels of covid cases in Cornwall and devon:

The serious escalation in Covid cases demands clarity and leadership. After all, over a thousand people die of Covid each week. Hospitals face unprecedented pressure. Emergency waits in Cornwall exceed 20 hours. Our serious emergency support hospital in Plymouth has declared a serious incident. The army has been called in to assist our ambulance service. Super-spreader events run the high risk of promoting a new vaccine-resistant variant.

Our country needs clarity and leadership. But Conservative Ministers have this evening responded with waffle. They declare it an “enhanced response package”. It would be more appropriate to call it a “late and limp response package”. It offers nothing but warm words, a bit of market relations and lots of blather. And it’s apparently still to be signed-off by the PM, the very person whose obsession with chasing headlines rather than following the science has landed us in this mess.

The Conservative’s obsession with right-wing libertarian dogma led them to their policy of placing faith in individuals “taking personal responsibility”. They must have known this message was contrary to the science, which requires us to protect each other.

What we needed was respected leadership; restrictions which require face-masks in enclosed public places, shops, public transport etc. return to the Face, Space, Hands and protect the NHS priorities.

The tory Health Minister helpfully exposes the Tory line in her message: “We are trusting people to… make decisions about how best to protect themselves and their loved ones”. But the point is that we should take protective measures to protect people we don’t know.

We need a new campaign. A Let’s “look out for each other” message. Encourage people to respect and support each other. Not just to assert their “rights” to do as they please, “take personal responsibility” and to only concern themselves with “themselves and their loved ones” and not to bother with anyone else.

– Notes –

Cornwall’s NHS is in meltdown and its care sector seriously overwhelmed. NHS leaders released a joint statement last week confirming it faced “unprecedented pressures” and introduced major changes to its services and provision of inpatient bed provision across its three acute hospital sites, which involved stopping some planned activities and commissioning others from private providers. Emergency services have been overwhelmed. Military brought in to support the ambulance service. Families offered £1200 payments to purchase care packages for patients needing to be discharged from hospital because the care sector has no further capacity. 20 hour waiting times at Cornwall’s only A&E. Minor injury units closed because of staff shortages. *I attach the carefully worded statement referred to.

In spite of our protestations, as a member of Cornwall’s Health (& adult Social care overview &) Scrutiny Committee we have been prevented from holding an urgent investigation into what’s happening. As a former member of the Commons Health select Committee i’m astonished at the way the local authority equivalent can be treated as toothless window-dressing.

In contrast Cornwall Council’s (Tory) Health & Care lead (Dr Andy Virr) seems to be living in a parallel universe, and appears to put his role as apologist for the Tory Government above that of his responsibilities as a registered clinician and a portfolio holder responsible for protecting public safety. Eg:
• Angrily denying any link between the G7 and the major Covid spike in June. Describing those who referred to a potential correlation as “conspiracy theorists”.
• Dismissing (last weekend) as “speculation” the possibility of a link between the Boardmasters event and increased prevalence of Covid. Then
• declared himself “reassured” by the low hospitalisation amongst the (16-29 yr) age group which is demonstrating the highest prevalence.
The Government and its Ministers are once again placing populist headline-chasing above being guided by the science. Government measures aren’t working. Ministers set a poor example. It’s no wonder we’re back into another covid spike in spite of the wonderful work of the NHS to achieve such high levels of vaccination. High levels of new cases, increasing hospitalisation and over a thousand deaths (that we’re told about) each week. of course, we expect younger people to be more resilient. But they carry this infection to those who are less so. The tory health lead fails to acknowledge this.

A major contribution to this is the prevalence of the Conservative’s agenda of promoting the “it’s my right” [libertarian] agenda above the wider community interest.

It’s time for a new campaign. a Let’s “look out for each other” message. Encourage people to respect and support each other. not just to assert their “rights” to do as they please. Reinstate the Face: Space: Hands message. Help to protect the NHS. As the many businesses which are regularly closed because of local outbreaks know, it’s only by getting genuinely on top of the disease that we will rebuild our economy.”