In mid-February, I started with a sky-high temperature. After that, I was absolutely shattered for two days. Adhering to governmental instruction, I telephoned 111, and followed their advice: no need to isolate, nothing to see here, move along now. Not long thereafter, my wife fell ill with a temperature, lethargy and then a persistent cough. During her illness, the advice changed, so we as a family stayed at home.
Was that coronavirus? Perhaps, and perhaps we will never know. Had we been living in South Korea, Hong Kong, China, Singapore or Taiwan, we would know. As a result, we continue to live as if we are vulnerable to coronavirus, when we might be immune. It is not a great imposition on us. No sympathy required. Millions of you are in our boat.
Unfathomably, however, the Government hasn’t tested, to any proper degree, the people that really matter most: the heroes in hospital who are risking their lives. Medics who live with someone with a cough are now obligated to isolate due to the dearth of testing. At a time when the NHS is calling up retired medics to re-join, it is madness not to test the current health practitioners who are languishing at home, well. On top of that, medics who carry the virus but are asymptomatic are spreading the virus to the healthy. You couldn’t make it up. The NHS staff know this: what a personal burden to carry at the most challenging of times. Medics, particularly from a BAME background, are dying.
The countries closest to the virus epicentre have the best reason for being unprepared. Equally, those countries furthest from the virus epicentre have had the longest period to prepare. But we didn’t, in what was the greatest dereliction of duty by a Government in my lifetime. We could have followed South Korea, but we didn’t. Contact tracing, coupled with an early shutdown, could have squashed it, just as New Zealand has done. But we had reckless Boris at the helm, someone who viewed the ill as somehow lacking in moral fibre. To quote the PM’s biographer, Andrew Gimson, in The Guardian:
“Boris never used to believe in illness. He neither admitted to sickness himself, nor noticed it in others. He believed he was strong enough to keep going regardless of any symptoms from which he might be suffering. His strong inclination was to overwork, not to put his feet up. In the light of his experiences one hopes he will change his outlook.”
Though we are as a nation plugged in to the global movement of people, the Government squandered our island advantage. When I returned to the UK by plane in February there were no checks at the airport. We were asking for it. From early February onwards, what has happened to us was entirely foreseeable.
Postscript: I’m writing to record precisely what is happening so that, when the pandemic passes, the Government – through its media allies – cannot spin us all out of the calamity of their making. The Government must pay for its incompetence.