Lack of protection: who is responsible for the coronavirus crisis in Britain? | News from the world


The British Covid-19 crisis reached the blame phase, with Boris Johnson, ministers, officials and scientists being criticized for underestimating the threat, delaying action and shaking up the country’s response amid a wave of deaths.

So who is in the crosshairs – and why?

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson in Greenwich February 3

Boris Johnson in Greenwich on February 3, when he said the UK was ready to fight countries that wanted to put in place trade barriers to stop diseases like the coronavirus. Photography: Reuters

Before becoming Prime Minister, Johnson was accused of being too casual and out of control of the details, particularly when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs. This week it emerged that he had not attended five high security Cobra meetings in January and February which were held to prepare for a possible pandemic. The allegation was published by the Sunday Times and later confirmed by Michael Gove. During this period, Johnson took breaks in the countryside with his pregnant fiancée – fueling concerns that he had not taken the threat seriously enough at an early stage.

These fears grew stronger after it appeared that on February 3, he claimed that the United Kingdom was ready to be a free trade “superhero” fighting against those who wished to erect trade barriers to stop diseases such as coronavirus. Emboldened by these claims, the government has long argued for Johnson’s treatment of the crisis and said the Sunday Times was guilty of “a series of lies and mistakes.” Gove said it was not unusual for other ministers to chair Cobra meetings.

Matt Hancock, Secretary of Health

Coronavirus: Matt Hancock sets goal of 100,000 tests per day by end of April – video

No other minister has been pressured more than Hancock, who has been accused of bragging about too much and delivering too little – especially to test the delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline NHS workers. .

His commitment to deploy 100,000 tests a day at the end of April seemed overly ambitious when he did so earlier this month – and with only one week to go, the target seems unattainable.

Although the UK has the capacity to do around 40,000 people a day – the actual number of tests carried out was 18,206 on Tuesday.

The bragging “will also come back to bite him,” according to a Downing Street insider quoted in the Daily Telegraph.

Another big problem for Hancock was the purchase of fans. He said the UK needs 18,000 machines – but so far there are only 10,700 in action. Critics say he focused on big brands like Dyson making them from scratch, rather than helping preexisting UK fan makers increase supply.

On April 3, he boasted of companies manufacturing PPE in the domestic market and sent a “cry to Burberry” for their offer of help. Weeks later, Hancock admitted they were “tight-knit,” and British companies have repeatedly complained that their dealings with the government have been withheld, with reports Monday from some companies sending equipment shipments abroad.

Patrick Vallance, Chief Government Science Advisor, and Chris Whitty, Chief Physician

Patrick Vallance (left) and Chris Whittey at Downing Street earlier this month

Patrick Vallance (left) and Chris Whittey at Downing Street earlier this month. Photography: Peter Summers / Getty Images

Both were praised for their calmness in dealing with the crisis at first, but their roles have come under scrutiny, not least because ministers continue to insist that they have made decisions. based on the advice they give them.

Critics of the government will say that ministers cannot shirk the responsibility of making key decisions – but there is undoubtedly enormous pressure on Vallance, Whitty and the teams around them.

The concept of collective immunity was first raised by Vallance on March 13 with a comment that it could be “an important part of control [coronavirus] longer term “. His remark raised alarm among the public as the UK continued to allow mass gatherings, while European neighbors banned sports facilities and closed schools.

The phrase was quickly shot down by Hancock who said it was not a “government goal or strategy”. A few days later, a scientific report was published by the Covid-19 response team at Imperial College London, which said that without urgent and aggressive crackdowns, up to 250,000 people could die.

Whitty once conceded that Germany “got ahead” in testing people for Covid-19 and said the UK needs to learn from it as it attempts to set up diagnostic facilities from zero.

Sir Mark Sedwill and the civil service

Mark Sedwill, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service

Mark Sedwill, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service. Photography: James Veysey / REX / Shutterstock

The role of the cabinet secretary in the center of government is crucial – Sedwill is the national security adviser, head of the public service, and it is incumbent on him to tell the cabinet that Johnson has been placed in intensive care. This made him the target of sniping unnamed government officials for a number of weeks.

Sources said in The Times and The Sunday Times that he failed to contain the coronavirus crisis in February; one of them, quoted in the Financial Times, even claimed that he fell out with Johnson and his colleagues about the response to the virus.

Cabinet Office insiders retaliated, calling the claims “crap” and tending to blame officials who cannot speak. Sedwill, who has enemies among Johnson’s advisers and in the cabinet, is unlikely to accept any attempt to blame the fault without fighting.


Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photography: Xie Huanchi / AP

Following Donald Trump’s attempts to label Covid-19 a “Chinese disease,” several ministers sought to highlight the regime’s failures to fight the disease in December and January.

When pressured by a lack of testing in the UK, Michael Gove seemed to blame the UK’s lack of preparation for coronaviruses in China.

“Some of the reports from China were unclear on the scale, nature, and infectivity of this,” he said.

His comments followed the Downing Street briefings, saying ministers expected a “judgment” with China on misinformation – British scientists said the death toll in China could be 40 times that who was officially announced, while Chinese doctors who tried to report were silenced.

Many scientists have pointed out that China has voluntarily shared the genetic code for the virus very quickly, allowing countries to start diagnostic testing and work on vaccines.

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization building in Geneva.

The World Health Organization building in Geneva. Photography: Denis Balibouse / Reuters

The United Nations agency, which is responsible for raising the global alarm during major disease outbreaks, has been accused by Trump of failing to test China’s claims and of repeatedly praising the Communist government for his answer.

Downing Street has joined in criticism, saying that the WHO response to the pandemic in China has shown that there is room for “improving its response” to such emergencies.


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