The handling of Covid-19 by the UK Government has been immeasurably poor. Filled with contradictions, miscommunication, confusion, and laziness, the people of the UK have paid for this incompetence with 100,000 deaths. Jack Mountney assesses the Government's record.

Last week, the United Kingdom passed the dismal milestone of 100,000 Covid deaths, only the fifth country to record a six-figure death toll, and by far the smallest. The news was broken in a national address last Tuesday where Boris Johnson offered his "deepest condolences to anyone who has lost a loved one". The question of what went wrong isn't one Johnson wanted to address. He managed to sound both empathetic and defensive. "We did everything we could," he insisted. That didn't stop the hashtag "#resignjohnson" from trending on social media.

The words, "we did everything we could", came from the man whose government's pandemic failures have led to this horrific death toll. They include overlapping decision-making structures, muddled objectives, politicisation, and a failure to connect scientific advice with policy. Boris Johnson's failure to act swiftly and make key decisions at key times has led to the predicament we find ourselves in today.

The UK had no border policies in place for months and when finally introduced, they were laidback and unmonitored. Borders are the first line of defence, a way to catch new variants before they have a chance to spread. Countries that managed to effectively contain the virus implemented screenings of new arrivals and 14-day quarantines for those entering the country. In March, when the UK entered lockdown, people were instructed to stay home while passengers from any country could arrive at Heathrow and take the Tube straight into London without a Covid test. In the summer, we had a window to prevent future infections. Instead, the UK encouraged overseas holidays via "travel corridors" that contributed to the second wave. We paid for summer holidays with winter lockdowns.

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The government made the disastrous decision back in March to stop community testing, which gave us the data of who had the virus and where it was spreading. Community testing is essential for monitoring the virus. Although later resumed, England outsourced testing and tracing to private firms instead of using local public health capacity. The lack of support for people who would have to self-isolate for 14 days has also been a huge problem. Even now, the majority of people have been refused a discretionary self-isolation payment, while statutory sick pay is a measly £95.85 a week. The result of inadequate support is that many who have tested positive have ended up going into work and infecting others.

Another damaging decision in March was delaying the first lockdown. Numbers were already running out of control, the Cabinet seemed to think that prolonging restrictions would make them less painful, for fear that "behavioural fatigue" would set in. If a lockdown is necessary, it is better to do it earlier so that restrictions can be lifter more quickly on the other side? Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland seemed to have learned this lesson, unlike England which delayed again restrictions in September and then December when it was clear numbers were sky-rocketing.

Another catastrophic error was the absence of appropriate personal protective equipment for many health and social workers who struggled during the first national lockdown in the spring. Many were exposed to Covid on the wards in which they were working, none of which had access to testing. Since the start of the pandemic, although they coped with a massive surge of Covid patients without the necessary safeguards, a staggering 900 health and social care workers have died of Covid.

The UK has repeatedly lacked both clear leadership and messaging, which are crucial in a pandemic. Rather than leading from the front, the government seems to only go by public opinion and polling. We spent months debating whether face coverings matter before adopting them and weeks debating whether Covid is indeed serious or just a bad flu. We were told to stay at home, then encouraged to "Eat Out to Help Out" in crowded restaurants. We sacrificed seeing our families and were fined for breaking lockdown rules but never heard Dominic Cummings apologise for flouting the lockdown. The result has been a complete breakdown of trust in the UK Government.

So, for the words "we did everything we could" to leave Boris Johnson's mouth in a nationwide address, after endless mistakes and slow decision-making is a disgrace to the memory of the 100,000+ people that have been lost to the virus. The virus that was able to ravage this nation at the hands of this Government's incompetence. The question remains whether the Government can learn the lessons of the past year, and not wait for another 50,000 deaths to act.

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