Thankful for the UK government during Covid19

Thankful for the UK government during Covid19 April 25, 2020

I have read one too many negative comment about the UK government and their attempts to handle this unprecedented crisis. It’s surely the biggest world wide catastrophe since World War 2. And yet some people just want to still carry on politics as normal and score points and talk about “controversy”.

It does somehow seem incongruous with the attitudes of the public, and especially volunteers and key workers. We are coming together in a strong sense of community, for example in the weekly applause for the NHS and other key workers. People even seem more polite to each other and we clearly realise we are fighting this together. 

On Facebook Andrew Wilson (not the pastor/theologian I know personally) said in a similar vein:

Journalism is missing the mood in this great country of ours – the United Kingdom. We do not want or need blame . . . We need hope, optimism and faith, with less negativity and more positive support

Why are some journalists and social media commentators being so negative then?  The whole world is in crisis at the moment. Nobody is getting everything right.

I should say that I don’t think all journalists are being overly negative and it is a hard balancing act for them.  I find the BBC’s Cornanavirus Newsccast has a better tone than many other programs. This is a human crisis and the team on there sound really human and are doing their best to help inform, educate, and even at times entertain us. I listen every day.

So I thought I would write about the many things we have to be grateful about. It is enough to make you feel proud to be British!


Firstly, our daily Downing Street Press Conference is not a narcisitic circus but instead regularly makes significant and dramatic policy announcements and presents clear data.  And instead of offering false reassurance and snake oil cures, we are quietly in this country creating world-leading clinical research projects and rapidly carrying out clear decisive revolutions in every area of our society. There is no doubt in my mind that the UK government including Boris Johnson has been engaging with scientists, but not being afraid to exercise strong leadership and make controversial decisions.

Some of these calls will turn out to have been wrong. Some people have indeed been falling through he cracks as the government tries to “put their arms around” to protect every business and person. And whilst we in the UK have had many deaths, we have fewer per head of population than several of our neighbours. It is true we have had more deaths than some countries, but perhaps those areas are simply earlier in their outbreaks.

UPDATE 4 May: I do agree that we shouldn’t be reading too much into the country league tables not least because countries differentiations widely in how they count the deaths. So for example the UK has now changed to including all community deaths which some others still do not and this has pushed them higher up the league tables. One of the UK experts recently said we should eventually be looking at excess all-cause mortality when this epidemic is over rather than any of the current measures. Anyway updated my previous post with some more data and a longer comment.

As of today it does seem like daily deaths in hospitals may have peaked and I do not envy the government as they begin to tentatively think about the next steps which clearly will not include suddenly abandoning all our efforts up till now.

There are also very many huge projects the government has done in weeks that would normally take years. Compare the botched roll out of universal credit over years with the smooth roll out of the 80% furlough scheme (and several other huge government funding distribution schemes too).  Yes there’s been some issues with all this and some businesses and people are missing out. But millions of people and thousands of business are receiving huge sums of money. I am frankly amazed the government has managed to do all this. As a result at the moment we have a far lower unemployment rate currently and predicted than the USA.

We have identified 1.5 million people who are extremely vulnerable to getting severe consequences from COVID19 infection.  Yes computer issues with the massive databases made this process not entirely smooth but a task like this is mammoth. As one of the vulnerable people I am very grateful for the efforts made to communicate with us and give us detailed advice to not leave our homes and so be fully shielded from the risk of catching the virus. We are even being given food boxes and struggle to get them to stop if we have managed to get supermarket deliveries.  I am not aware that other countries have gone to anything like the same lengths.

We have built huge field hospitals overnight. Meanwhile we haven’t yet needed them because our social distancing rules, which some debate the timing of, have succeeded in flattening the curve enough that the NHS can cope. Our fantastic  NHS has adapted and remodelled its services. Unused operating theatres added to Intensive Care units which in some places have more than quadrupled in size. Telephone and video consultations rolled out to every GP and hospital consultant as we attempt to manage other health conditions away from the risk of infection.  Thanks to the amazing work of our doctors and nurses we are saving 34% of ventilated patients which is a higher proportion of people who are ventilated here than in America where 90% have been dying.

This week the first of two UK based vaccine candidates was injected into the first subjects in a clinical trial designed to prove if these rapidly developed potentially game changer vaccines work.

We are gathering convalescent plasma and will shortly be able treat patients with that but are doing it via a clinical trial to confirm it actually helps. Might sound slow but people have to be well from COVID19 for 28 days or more to have enough antibodies to harvest. Just today the UK health minister who had himself recovered from COVID19 has donated his own blood. It is a way for you to help others and also find out whether you have formed antibodies to the disease.

Image Matt Hancock/Twitter

We also already have by far the worlds largest trial of treatments for COVID19 with 7465 participants who have all been hospitalised in 172 different hospitals. Clear results expected in a few weeks time that will show if any of the bright idea drugs actually work

Amazingly if you understand the orgamisation involved, it even looks like we might hit the 100,000 testing target this month or maybe shortly after, and of course we’ve hugely expanded PPE (protection equipment) availability, and yes had some logistical problems but we so far haven’t had a huge number of heath care staff killed by COVID19 as we’ve heard in some other countries.

Also our food supply is stabilising and we never actually starved just couldn’t get every single thing we want.

After an appeal for help an amazing 750,000 people volunteered to help the NHS. The government has also in an astonishing exercise which seems to only merit a footnote in these difficult times housed almost everyone who was sleeping on the streets by paying for space in vacant hotels. A friend of mine is involved in caring for their needs.

More controversially actually even Brexit suddenly looks like a brilliant idea since we won’t be on the hook for bailing out Southern Europe. We are able to borrow huge amounts of money to deal with this crisis at low interest rates. From next year we won’t have to worry about EU state aid rules so can support vital industries if necessary.

We are taking equity as a country in some startups and may well end up nationalising much of public transport and who knows what else. Who knows but we might even end up permanently putting up universal credit amounts since so many people who never expected to need it have suddenly had to depend on it and realised its not enough.

Self employment has been revealed for the trap it is, and dividend pay for directors who work for their own company has identified a huge gap that’s not been possible so far to fill. But perhaps after all this companies are going to be made to look after their people. It’s so much easier for a company to furlough than the government to take them into benefits maybe this is an opportunity for the future e.g. much better sick pay done by insurance perhaps.

Essentially we now have almost a clean slate and can look to the future and figure out what kind of country we want to rebuild from the ashes.

We have in Boris Johnson a leader who will never be able to minimise the importance of the NHS and has had a life threatening encounter which cannot but change him in a positive way.

And to top it all even our politicians are behaving themselves so much better than they did during the Brexit crisis times. Imagine if we’d had a paralysed parliament at the moment. All the legsilation needing to be passed might have been blocked by the last group of MPs who couldn’t agree.

Instead we have a respectful questioning approach from Sir Keir and listening to stand in PM questions last week I didn’t feel ashamed to be British.

And that’s not even all of it!

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