And so to the cover-up

This is a report on Dominic Cummin’s fascinating revelations about how the government worked (didn’t) during the early days of the epidemic.

It makes juicy reading. Especially when you consider how many died. The description of the Prime Minister responding to being asked difficult questions in meetings by saying “let’s take it offline” and then rushing out of the meeting shouting “forward to victory” sounds both plausible and terrifying. Cummins claims that lockdown was not considered until the 14 of March. This is my post from 11 March 20 reporting on the Director of WHO bemoaning the lack of action by governments. The Cummins revelations confirm what we already know – that for the first few crucial weeks of the epidemic there was a total failure at the heart of government not just in No. 10, but at the senior levels in PHE and the DHSC, to respond to the crisis. (This is another of my posts from the early stages when I point out what Cummins is now saying; that the government was rudderless and its response was completely inadequate).

A lot of the revelations concern Matt Hancock. He is depicted as incompetent and a liar. I read recently an anonymous account of a backbench Tory MP who said that Hancock has a tendency to report as true-fact-now things which are in fact just at the planning stage. This interpretation syncs with Cummins’s account. For example; it would explain how Hancock could have told the PM that patients were being tested in Care Homes when what he meant was that they were working on it.

Everyone can see that Matt Hancock is lying. Just one example; his official response to why testing of discharged patients did not start in Care Homes until mid-April is that there was no testing capacity. But – he is presumably hoping that no one is going to point out that the reason that testing capacity was low was that it hadn’t been built. The Health bureaucracy had dragged their feet on it; and who was responsible for this if not the Minister for Health? This is from the Independent on 31-3-20: “The UK’s failure to mass test for coronavirus has been condemned by a World Health Organisation (WHO) expert, who revealed 44 laboratories had been left idle.” [1] His statement to Parliament on 19-5-20 that “We will keep working to strengthen the protective ring we have cast around all our care homes” [2] is a sheer lie. Between mid-March and 16 April thousands of untested patients were discharged from hospitals into Care Homes as a matter of policy. There was no protective ring at all. Not one of the things which could have been done were done; there was no rule to isolate care homes, there was no rule to prevent staff moving between care homes; there was a lack of PPE (if that makes a difference); there was no mandatory testing of hospital transfers until 16 April. Even as Cummins first accused Hancock of serial lying he was apparently lying again – this time about how many tests were being conducted in Bolton. [3]

But we can see the cover-up swinging into action. The Guardian ends its report of Cummin’s latest revelations with this:

Despite Cummings’s lengthy and occasionally rambling analysis, the health committee chair, Jeremy Hunt, pointed out in a Twitter thread that he has yet to produce any evidence that definitively shows Hancock lied to the prime minister.

This may well be a foretaste of how the cover-up is going to work. (Notice the language; the accusations are “rambling”. The former Health Minister “points out”). The Health Minister can lie openly in ways which everyone can see (the above examples are just a few selections) but because there is no single and particular piece of documentary evidence he will be cleared. This is a kind of dystopian ruse. You can commit mass manslaughter through negligence (this is the charge) in plain sight but because no one can produce a precise document on which you openly signed off on this you will be cleared. Hancock aside this shows a level of dysfunction at the heart of the system; a supreme willingness to avoid the truth if you can get away with it. And while the media is challenging the government on this I doubt the criticism will be decisive and robust enough.

Update

This is a pretty devastating critique of the UK’s disastrous handling of Sars-Cov-2. One credit to the Guardian – throughout the epidemic they have consistently published articles on the epidemic by virologists, epidemiologists and other scientists expressing a range of views. This is an enormous credit to the Guardian because it means they are supporting and nurturing the idea of a scientifically literate democratic society. It remains to be seen if this kind of journalism will translate into any kind of political effect. I think not. It is like the old adage – if you owe your bank $100.00 they they own you, but if you owe them $10,000,000.00 then you own them. Put simply the scale of the ineptness and mishandling of the response is so great that the only accurate result would be for mass resignations across government and executive. Dozens of highly paid officials need to resign (starting with Vallance and Whitty – the authors it seems of the initial, fatal, ‘do nothing’ approach). Since that isn’t going to happen nothing will. The whole thing has to be brushed under the carpet. As Dr William Hanage says in this article: they are already rewriting recent history. This is how it is going to be.

Notes

  1. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/coronavirus-uk-testing-cases-deaths-who-germany-update-a9437126.html
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-politics-52725547/matt-hancock-on-testing-for-care-home-staff-and-residents
  3. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/matt-hancock-coronavirus-vaccine-bolton-b1855191.html

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer