HEALTH Secretary Matt Hancock has decided Public Health England (PHE) can carry the can for his mistakes. PHE, we read, is to be scrapped and replaced by a new body specifically designed ‘to protect the country against a pandemic by early next month’.
Mr Hancock, who has been on holiday, must hope that this will be sufficient to shift the blame following the Prime Minister’s admission that ‘the country’s response to the pandemic had been sluggish’.
But shouldn’t he be taking responsibility for his own errors or lapses of judgment? We can list some of them for him (I’m sure readers will have further suggestions):
1. Not protecting the care homes – 40 per cent of Covid deaths up to June 12 were care home residents. It is the minister, surely, with whom the buck stops for this dereliction of duty. It’s not as though he wasn’t warned about the crisis about to unfold. We did, on these pages, on March 28. Some eight weeks later our worst fears were confirmed.
2. Failing to ensure the data presented to the public – cases, hospitalisations, deaths – was accurate and put everything in proper perspective rather than driving hysteria. He is still doing this with ‘second wave’ fearmongering, without making clear the false impression created by expanded testing programmes and false positives against the lack of hospitalisations and deaths.
3. Failing to ensure that a proper cost-benefit analysis of the extreme lockdown measures was carried out.
4. Over-depending on one set of scientists despite the evident shortcomings of their modelling and track records, and failing to listen to a full range of scientific opinion, such as those at Oxford University (Carl Heneghan, Sunetra Gupta).
5. Failing to initiate an effective containment (screening, testing and tracing) policy in the first place, as we warned on TCW in mid-March; then failing to use lockdown time to address this gap in the UK’s containment capability or to ensure later test and trace programmes were up to scratch.
6. Being so woefully tardy in recognising the need for priority Covid testing for front-line medical and healthcare and social care workers, and the urgency of sourcing and purchasing adequate PPE supplies and stocks, a key feature of proper pandemic preparedness.
Shouldn’t Mr Hancock take responsibility for once and be axing himself? Discuss!