Information from two committee inquiries regarding the government’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak, has been released today. In it, the UK government were heavily criticized for being too slow in their response to the Coronavirus outbreak early last year.
Whilst the report highlights some of the positive steps taken within England during the pandemic, such as the speed of the vaccine rollout, it is also incredibly damning in places. It claims that the decision to follow a path of herd immunity delayed the government in calling for a lockdown and caused tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. These policy failures were described in the report as “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”. The rollout of the Test and Trace system was referred to as “uncertain and often chaotic” and further alarm bells have been rung about the protection of those in care homes, individuals with learning difficulties and those in Black, Asian and minority ethnicity groups throughout the pandemic.
The cross-party document, Coronavirus: Lessons learned to date, also addressed former advisor Dominic Cummings’ testimony, in which he shared his regret that too few people within government, including himself, had challenged the initial decision to adopt the policy of effective herd immunity. Cummings included in his statement heavy critiques of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, condemning him for being “obsessed with the media” and ‘changing direction like a shopping trolley’, pointing towards a government tendency towards what he labelled as ‘false groupthink’. Greg Clark, Conservative MP, currently chairing the Science and Technology Select Committee, supported Cummings’ statement, quoting his disclosure of ‘regret’ that he had felt ‘intimidated’ in challenging the early assumptions of the government.
Clark added an expression of concern for the fact that even someone as influential as Cummings, who resigned in November of last year, felt unable to challenge the majority consensus. He called for an increased need to challenge the institution, and allow for increased liberation within government for members to air individual perspectives, and welcome external viewpoints even on a transnational level.