Ministers have taken the astonishing decision to excoriate an innocent public rather than own up to mistakesby James Robins / October 1, 2020 / Leave a comment
The rate of infection is rising again. Spreading through a population who were told the worst was behind them. On 22nd September, Boris Johnson fumed with mock profundity and Blitz borrowings that there have been “too many breaches, too many opportunities for our invisible enemy to slip through undetected.” If the point of such overwrought wartime metaphors was to make us all feel like traitors, those “opportunities” for subversion were entirely of Johnson’s own making.
At every critical moment of this agonising plague year, the British government has tried to pass off blame for its catastrophic failings to the public. Faced with the deep shame of taking responsibility for one of the highest Covid-19 death tolls in the world, Tory ministers and their legion of advisers have sidestepped and scapegoated instead.
Right from the start, in the spring, the government fundamentally misunderstood the point of a total national lockdown. Such drastic measures are supposed to stall the contagion and strangle its dispersion, buying time for authorities to fashion a rigorous test-and-trace system and a battery of coherent long-term restrictions. Only these would allow for a safe and controlled return to semi-ordinary life. Yet lockdown was sold—is still being sold—as an end in itself. Stay inside for a bit, and it will all go away.
In reality, it took almost four months for a shambolic testing system to emerge, with its companion tracing network following another two months after. In late August Health Secretary Matt Hancock, flushed with false confidence, advised anyone “in doubt” about their symptoms to “get a test.” And when the programme, administered by such notoriously competent entities as Deloitte and Serco, began to crack and crumble in September, Hancock blamed the understandably frightened and justifiably cautious among us for taking “inappropriate” tests which caused an “increase in demand.” In other words, it’s your own fault you can’t return to work (which you were told to do because the economy is cratering), not ours for asset-stripping national infrastructure. This is the same Matt Hancock who, when faced with a massive shortage of protective equipment for healthcare workers, warned those workers not to “overuse” the “precious” supply. Not worthy of protection, then, only of blame.
Those months were attended by the…