Andy Richardson: 'It’s time for the people in charge to be accountable'

Does anyone believe the Government anymore?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Oliver Dowden, the man overseeing the decimation of Britain’s arts – oops, forgot, the Culture Secretary – put Twitter into meltdown as he appeared to be making it up as he went along. I know, what’s new? Quizzed by Kay Burley on the basis for the Government targeting the hospitality sector, he bumbled about academic evidence from the United States.

“Be more precise,” said Burley. Dowden bumbled on, looking like a child who’d been caught taking a packet of crisps from the tuckshop.

At a time when Government ministers are supposed to be increasing our trust and providing a credible message, they continue to do the opposite. Still, Dowden and his cronies will have time to gather their thoughts. They’re being taken to court as the UK starts to fragment over what should happen next.

In contrast, here’s some stuff that is credible. It comes from Anthony Costello, part of Independent SAGE, who isn’t a Government lackey: “Cases, hospitalisations and deaths are all rising. It’s too late for test and trace to stop it. Things will just get worse.”

The World Health Organisation says if a country’s rate of hospitalisation goes above 5 per cent we should be doing more tests. We are at 5 per cent now. And recent data show that 82 per cent of cases didn’t effectively self-isolate. His conclusion is gloomy: “We missed our chance in July to keep the epidemic controlled.”

A partially effective vaccine is probable though we need tight controls over the next six to 12 months, until it’s available. It’s clear, however, that we’re on the wrong path. Again. Look to New Zealand. The Prime Minister and officials took a 20 per cent pay cut in April. Here, MPs are looking at a £3k pay rise.

Lockdowns will cripple economies and cause more deaths through missed surgeries, cancer treatments, suicides and the like than lives saved. The elderly must, however, shield.

As nations from New Zealand to Germany, from South Korea to Vietnam, from China to Taiwan get it right and we continue to bungle, one thing is clear. The pandemic is in its first or second chapter – a novel has yet to unfold. It’s the greatest crisis since the Second World War and we have a Churchill tribute act in charge, rather than the real deal. Track and trace has been disastrous: it’s time for the people in charge to be accountable.

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