Leicester Lockdown - How Did We Get Here?

2020 Gorffenaf 6 4:21 PM

The recently imposed lockdown in Leicester came as a bolt out of the blue. The data the local council and Director of Public Health had available to them showed only a few new cases of COVID-19 each day. But the local data the Government was giving them didn't show the full picture.

The Government publishes the numbers of positive tests for COVID-19 each day. This includes tests processed at Public Health England and hospital labs (known as Pillar 1) plus tests done via NHS Test & Trace and commercial testing labs (known as Pillar 2).

Local councils were only getting useful data for Pillar 1. The Pillar 2 data was not produced for local areas until late last week. Councils had been asking for it for many weeks. They needed information about where exactly the positive cases were, where those people worked, and other useful factors that would be helpful in identifying any patterns so that plans could be made to successfully clamp down on any spread of the virus. The lack of Pillar 2 data until a few days ago has meant that the government has, in effect, tied the hands of councils. It's not clear who was supposed to be bearing down on these Pillar 2 cases. Had the local council and Director of Public Health been given this task weeks ago, Leicester wouldn't be in the situation it is today. With 140.1 cases per 100,000 people it is very much an outlier. Derby in comparison has 24.5 cases per 100,000 people.

Throughout this pandemic we have seen the UK government refuse to follow best practice advice from the World Health Organisation. Remember their advice of test, test, test back in early Spring? Instead the Conservative government stopped testing and tracing contacts for each case. Then there was the lack of proper preparations for stockpiling PPE and the unnecessary deaths that caused. Then there was the scandal of the virus being brought into care homes via people discharged from hospitals, often without warning the homes. Then there was the very slow implementation of testing and tracing in the community. Then we found out that the government had disbanded the national pandemic unit 6 months before COVID-19 struck. Then the government's messaging changed from stay at home to stay alert, giving the false impression that the danger was going away. The hot sunny weather was all that was needed for hordes of people to descend on beaches all around the country, and the government allowed pubs to reopen while knowing many drinkers would find social distancing impossible. Social distancing was just a memory.

The whole of the government's response could in no way be described as professional or efficient. But it's perfectly possible to do a much better job of protecting a population. Just look at countries like Germany, South Korea, Vietnam and New Zealand. Tragically the pride of Johnson and Cummings won't let them admit to the monumental series of cock-ups they have caused, so tens of thousands of people have died unnecessarily.

It's time for the Government to swallow its pride, admit that its handling of the COVID-19 crisis hasn't been good, and that we need a new strategy to stop many more from dying unnecessarily. Less trying to do things their own way and more listening to international experts and following the proven test, trace and isolate method. More joined up working with local Councils to support local communities. And being straight with people about the risks instead of encouraging people to go out and spread the infection further. Only then can we truly beat COVID-19, prevent people across our communities from dying unnecessarily, and protect people's jobs.