Inverclyde has been the area in Scotland worst affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. On 3 March this year its local MP, the SNP’s Ronnie Cowan, asked the Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock and the Chief Medical Officer to implement quarantine measures for all people arriving in the UK from abroad. No action was taken and for the next two months travellers have been able to come into the UK from abroad without having health checks and without having to self-isolate themselves or go into quarantine.
Now we hear that finally the British Government is to introduce “quarantine” measures for all travellers arriving in the UK. Only it’s not introducing quarantine measures at all. New Zealand has quarantine measures. Only people who are NZ citizens or who have the right of residence in New Zealand are permitted entry into the country. All travellers coming into the country from abroad after 10 April 2020 are screened for Covid-19 symptoms and are required to either go into 14 days of “managed isolation” in a government-provided facility (hotel) if they don’t have symptoms, or if they do have symptoms they must go into a quarantine facility. They are not permitted to self-isolate at home. Since New Zealand is a civilised country, the conditions in the government isolation facilities appear to be pretty good. The New Zealand Government is paying the full costs of food and accommodation while arrivals are in quarantine.
The UK is not proposing this. The UK is not planning to implement any restrictions on travel to the UK by people who are not UK citizens or who don’t have the right of residence in the UK. Neither is it sending people to quarantine centres. Instead arrivals will have to provide an address in the UK and they will be asked to remain there for two weeks in self-isolation after their arrival. They’ll still come into contact with countless people as they travel from the airport to their final destinations on public transport.
Mind you, it’s probably a kindness that arrivals are being allowed to self-isolate at home. No one sane would relish the prospect of going into a British Government isolation facility for two weeks. New Zealand put up its arrivals in luxury hotels for free where they blogged about the amount of cake they were getting. The UK would put people up in unheated draughty and leaky Nissen huts in an abandoned army camp in Essex and feed them slop while charging them for the privilege of being imprisoned by surly G4S security guards.
Now of course it would be daft to suggest that if quarantine restrictions had been imposed far earlier upon international travellers arriving in the UK no one would have died of Covid-19 in Greenock, but the point is that this is merely one further instance of the British Government acting slowly and reluctantly and having to be shamed into taking belated action. We simply have no way of knowing whether infected people have continued to arrive in the UK after lockdown was introduced and whether they have spread the virus. Not even the most basic health checks have been made.
Yet again the stable door is being bolted long after the horse has died of a coronavirus infection. Just like the will we won’t we end lockdown mess, the tardiness with which the UK entered lockdown in the first place, the herd immunity oh no we’re not doing that, the testing but not testing but testing again and the lying about targets met, the many many issues about the provision of PPE, the British Government is mired in confusion, mixed messaging, and incompetence. From the get go, Boris Johnson’s administration has been late to act, slow to implement measures, and hauf airsed in its performance.
There is simply no reasonable excuse for the British Government’s mixed messaging about the ending of lockdown. The British press would not have printed all those stories about “Happy Monday” unless someone in the British Government had been briefing them. Yet as we know from Nicola Sturgeon, there was no official communication of these plans to the devolved administrations. This is a government which tackles its official messaging in a life-and-death crisis via the medium of unattributable briefings to selected journalists. And then it backtracks on those briefings just as quickly. The result is that the public are left confused and unsure about what is permitted and what is not. If we were dealing here with a financial situation, and people were left unsure about what money they could claim or what tax break they qualified for, that would be bad enough. But we’re dealing with people’s lives. People could die as a direct result of the British Government’s confusion.
The worst death tolls from Covid-19 are in the UK and the USA. Both are governed by blioviating liars who trade in populism. Both are governed by charlatans who are hopelessly out of their depths. Both are governed by selfish fools who are far more interested in what they think is good for the economy and for their own political careers than in what is good for the countries they govern. Both have no hesitation in putting their own interests before yours.
The fault for the UK’s lamentable response to this emergency lies with part time Prime Minister Boris Johnson who thinks that he can blag his way through a life and death crisis, winging it instead of working. The fault lies with a Conservative cabinet chosen on the basis of their ideological commitment to Brexit and their willingness to shed anything that they might have once possessed that could pass for moral fibre. The fault lies with a Conservative party which blinds itself to the reality that the UK is not in a league of its own, that British exceptionalism isn’t a protection against a virus. The fault lies in a British state that’s incapable of reforming itself and whose first instinct is to protect the interests of the rich and powerful.
The real point here is that the lateness of a decision on checks on international arrivals is just one of many such instances of a confused and slow UK Government response. There is an enormous vacuum in the British Government’s response to the Coronavirus crisis, and it has, not coincidentally, the exact same shape as a self-congratulatory British nationalist street party – which equally uncoincidentally is precisely all that Boris Johnson is good for. He’s the self-congratulatory British nationalist street party of politics. People are dying as he scoffs the red white and blue cupcakes and encourages everyone to sing Vera Lynn while they wait for him to perform his piss poor Churchill impression.
And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…
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