UEA has aided the pandemic more than our government

They reacted faster too

There has been much attention, and rightly so, given to the way in which the government has responded to this pandemic. Be it insufficient testing numbers, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) quantities or the way in which social distancing measures have been enforced, no one can deny how clumsily it’s been handled.

Yet, in these times of trouble, the mainstream response has been praising a fish for swimming: widespread acclaim and praise flung in the government’s direction for doing what is expected. The BBC’s coverage thus far has made their 2019 election coverage look like an advert for how brilliant Jeremy Corbyn is. Of course, this rubs off on people. It is a well-known reality that political leaders’ approval ratings increase in times of natural disaster: people are able to put aside political differences and priorities health and safety. So, increasingly the British public are praising the bare minimum: ‘Oh that Boris is doing a lovely job, haven’t they done so well?’. Actually, sorry to burst your bubble Karen but no, they’ve been about as useful as an earthworm in this crisis and in all honesty, I think that’s slightly unfair on the worm.

I recognise I am being purposefully scathing. After all, are death figures not now coming down with testing going up? Is PPE not now more available than ever? Are hospital beds not now becoming increasingly plentiful as the virus becomes contained? To be clear, it is without doubt incredibly positive that the virus is coming under control and I hope that no one disputes this, but it is not where we are now that we should be focusing on.

The problem is the neglect of criticism for the government’s previous inaction: allowing them to hide in the shadow of the limelight is adjacent to allowing praise to ISIS for slowing their number of terrorist attacks. The point being that in each case there were thousands of avoidable deaths.

To unpack where the government went wrong may take several months, so the more apt question here is what have they done right? The timing of the lockdown was horrendously late: by the time the virus had hit our shores, its severity was already being globally acknowledged. Many countries, all of which have gone on to have far fewer deaths and a sooner lifting of lockdown, enforced ‘stay at home’ measures long before the daily death toll became worrying.

Next we have the severe lack of testing and tracing with the under-reporting of figures being profoundly misleading. Indeed, rather than reporting infections, our figures were geared entirely towards deaths due to insufficient testing equipment. On April 23rd, when the government announced testing kits for 10 million key workers, the orders ran out within minutes as only 5,000 were made available.

Lastly, we come onto to the NHS and PPE. Truly, the NHS staff have proved themselves once again to be our saviours, containing the virus as best they can with their very limited resources of funding, beds and PPE. Years of austerity cuts meant PPE stockpiles had dwindled, yet the UK missed four opportunities to join the EU’s PPE scheme. Throughout April millions of legislating death profiteers sold off our PPE to other European countries for a tidy profit. Money is worth more to them than a human life, it seems.

At this point I look to UEA, and their dedicated production of hand sanitiser in the campus laboratories. It really does come to something when one institution in Norwich, a notoriously cut-off city, seemingly cares more about the pandemic than the UK government. On top of that, Norwich itself has the fewest cases of COVID-19 in the UK.

The common derivative of the issues here lies squarely with years of Tory austerity and their crippling under-funding of the NHS for the last decade, along with their lack of early action all in the hopes of protecting the economy. The very same economy that is supposed to serve and better the very people who have been killed for its short term betterment.

This is a mere glance at the last month, but I am sure the final autopsy of this pandemic will reveal stab wounds to the heart of the public with the name ‘Austerity’ carved precisely into the handle of the knife.

It is not the government we should be praising: our time is much better spent on the earthworm, they’ve proved less murderous.