Do not waste your sympathy on Boris Johnson and his cronies. Whilst nobody anticipated the COVID-19 outbreak to be as prominent and as devastating as it was and still is, there can be no excuse for the constant missteps this government has made.
Though it seems long ago now, Johnson’s actions during the first cases of the virus back in late January 2020 were somewhat telling of the way the next 12 months were to pan out. Despite the scaremongering of media outlets like ITV and BBC evening news, Johnson repeatedly ignored the urgent discussions held at COBRA meetings. He had acted in an obtuse manner towards them as if his great nation were too powerful to succumb to the virus.
Granted that nobody had yet died due to COVID-19 by this point, the virus was still sweeping other nations globally, making fear and panic spread faster than the virus itself. By the time the first case had reached British borders, there was an average death rate of 18 people per week. Turning a blind eye to this fact was Johnson’s early downfall. This information was spreading like wildfire and was predicted to increase by enormous quantities if action was not taken, and that is exactly what happened.
England was finally put into a state of lockdown on March 16, 2020. This was monumental for the government. It finally showed signs of progress and a willingness to fight away the unprecedented tragedy that was yet to be felt in its full force. Whilst this gave the general British public a feeling of relief, many thought it was too little too late. This move came 52 days after the first form of quarantine the world saw this year, and 42 days after a large percentage of global air travel had begun to cease.
From this, it is clear to see that the pandemic was starting to be a threat, and Britain was slow to join this mindset. As people still had to work and learn during this time, the virus was less likely to be contained to one area of the country, allowing it to spread near and far, and heavily influence the unheralded influx of death and heartbreak was yet to come.
The content of Johnson’s regular addresses during the first lockdown became quite the internet sensation due to the sheer ineptitude of them. As a newly elected Prime Minister, being perceived as ambiguous and hazy in your guidelines during a global crisis would be potentially damning for your reputation and popularity as a leader.
Well, as we all are aware, this is exactly what Johnson ran into. With contradicting rules, and their corresponding punishments being unclear, the first lockdown started to turn into a guessing game for the British public. People questioned who could go to their workplace and how much exercise people could do and where. This was just a glimpse into the future series of lockdowns and tier systems that were just as complex and misunderstood. Not having a rigid structure during this period became just another arrow into the government’s Achilles’ heel.
Following the relaxation of the lockdown rules one in early July 2020, judging what the average person could and could not do became even more challenging. With different rules for indoors and outdoors, the promotion of schemes that would defy the rules and the opening of schools that, flouted even more guidelines, public distrust in the government became more apparent.
In true Conservative fashion, the government had placed prominent firms’ interests in higher priority than that of the electorate, which stirred up much more outrage and panic as cages began to soar. By allowing businesses to operate, Johnson was able to attempt to save the state of our GDP and allow the flow of cash to heal itself, but this came with a significant loss of lives and an uncontrollable strain on NHS hospitals is still apparent many months later.
It is undeniable that the government has made some detrimental mistakes throughout the pandemic. From acting too late, to empty gestures of gratitude towards the NHS and even protecting fiscal matters over public health and safety. The 2020 cabinet has neither acted gratefully nor compassionately towards the electorate. These mistakes had significant effects that will take a lot of time to heal from, including tragic devastation caused by the loss of life and the economic effects felt by the impact of the financial crash. The government deserves to be held accountable for this.