“The recordings show Home Office Deputy Science Advisor Rupert Shute stating repeatedly that the Government believes “we will all get” COVID-19 eventually. The call further implied that the Government now considers hundreds of thousands of deaths unavoidable over a long-term period consisting of multiple peaks of the disease.”

This is at odds with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s assertions that we’ll be over the worst of it in 12 weeks.

Even our ‘own’ Tory MP, Mark Garnier, was also at it in his weekly Kidderminster Shuttle column this week bigging up herd immunity again, amongst his other ramblings. So there must be some Conservative Central Office messaging now going on again, because as we know, Mark always follows the Tory herd. No wonder the public are confused. And, as complained about in our reports here, the Shuttle never allows any public dispute of our MP’s musings any more, having scrapped its reader’s letters page.

In response, Wyre Forest Labour’s Stephen Brown writes:

In a new report it’s revealed the Government’s COVID-19 ‘strategy’, such as it is, hasn’t really changed, it’s still ’herd immunity’. The link in this piece explains why. It reveals a leaked recording of senior conversations that have taken place. It predict hundreds of thousands dead. A shocking revelation. What it doesn’t really expand upon is the sub strategy that’s happening in relation to PPE, ventilators, capacity, and resourcing.”

In the meantime, we’ve all gone out and proudly clapped for the excellent work being done by our NHS workers, and key workers, who, despite the huge challenges, carry on working in the face of adversity and in some cases the prospect of their own death with risks exacerbated by a lack of PPE and resources. This is a human tragedy unfolding before our very eyes, and in some cases, sadly impacting many of you very directly. We have seen too many NHS doctors and nurses die needlessly through lack of PPE.

These key workers, until now, decried as “low skilled” have played a vital role in holding things together. Drivers, public transport workers, delivery workers and posties, cleaners, porters, care workers, shop workers to name a few, even fruit pickers. All playing their valuable part. Many are immigrants, who until recently, were the target of much media and political hostility. Windrush and Brexit being two such examples. I hope this stops going forward, but just yesterday Tory Home Secretary, Priti Patel, sneaked out the changes in immigration policy that will see many of them fail to meet criteria and be sent ‘home’ come next January. That’s some shabby kind of ‘thank you’ in my opinion.

We’ve all seen NHS workers funny but important messaging videos, nurses dancing to keep their spirits up, and even the midwife team in Worcestershire Royal’s brilliant video to expectant parents. What’s not been so impressive is some politicians trying to use the goodwill of a nation shown to our NHS to get us clapping for Boris Johnson being in ICU. No one in Wyre Forest Labour wishes him ill, and we hope he has a speedy recovery, but this should not be about using a crisis he’s created to bolster his personal ratings as some in Government have tried.

New Labour Leader, Keir Starmer has rightly called on the Government to explain its ‘exit strategy’.  That must surely and rightly come. This crisis must have three phases. The current, the return to work phase, and the longer term future and make-up of our public services, employment and taxation systems.

What mainly concerns many of us right now however, me included, is how we got here, the current strategy, and how we are dealing with that. We now know the Govt policy remains ‘herd immunity’. That explains a few things about why the Government was, is, and remains, woefully under-prepared for the logistical challenge of this crisis.

If herd immunity is their strategy it would surely mean that they don’t really understand why the need for masses of PPE, ventilators, and adequate equipment resources. Or they don’t care. The fact that they finally called for lockdown and had to use exhibition halls for NHS ‘Nightingale’ demonstrates just how under-prepared we were after 10 years of needless austerity busted overnight in one big magic money tree spending spree on this crisis – showing it was always a political not economic choice. Germany, by contrast, has nearly 30 ICU beds per 100,000 people, we have about six, one of the lowest in the developed world. We could and should have been more like Germany in our approach to our NHS and social care priorities.

Sadly, many in the Govt haven’t even followed their own lockdown advice, and senior Ministers have swanned off travelling hundreds of miles to visit their family, or to stay in their second homes, increasing the risk of contracting the virus and spreading it maybe even taking it to rural communities. It underpins their cavalier ‘take it on the chin’ attitude that has beset their whole approach.

In what other Government around the world have numerous Minsters and those in charge got this illness? We’ve seen them on TV, mingling with key workers, wiping their noses and faces, being ill in public briefings. It may be an indiscriminate virus but whilst you and I follow advice, why are they above it? It shows they didn’t and still don’t take it seriously despite 8,000 deaths to date – and that’s just the official tally as care home deaths are not being recorded even though patients are being sent to care homes to die. The very use of the words ‘herd immunity’ is deeply revealing of how they view us. As a ‘herd’. We are not, we are human beings. We expect more.

A report in 2016 revealed how under-prepared we were for a pandemic like this, and exposing the need for a logistical plan. The Government did nothing. As the situation developed in China. The Government did nothing. As we got the first cases in January. The Government did nothing. As those case numbers grew. The Government did nothing. As the risk grew and sporting and big events took place. The Government did nothing.

It continually ignored the scientific advice from others’ experiences, ignored World Health Organisation guidance, and failed to learn from other European countries, even though we had the data and head start on them. Why? Herd immunity! My article here on 22nd March covers it.

We were still taking it on the chin on the 7th March, a full 5 weeks after the first case. Two weeks later we were in a half-arsed lock down. The call for ICU capacity increases, PPE, and ventilators was clear. The Government didn’t sign up to the EU procurement scheme for this (in order to keep Brexit ‘pure’) instead it asked for UK companies to come up with ventilator designs, ignored existing manufacturers, and even companies like GTech in Worcester who were asked to build them and did, were subsequently cancelled. Instead, it asked Dyson and JCB, donors of and backers of Brexit and the Tory Party to build them from scratch. It’s all smoke and mirrors. As it is, we’ve missed the boat and won’t likely get them in time for the expected ‘first’ peak in a week or so. We are now getting freebies from China and the German Army. It is negligence, corruption on an unprecedented scale, amidst what many say is an already unprecedented crisis.

In the name of ‘unity’ we are told not to criticise, that now is not the time. But when is the time? These very bad decisions are costing lives now. The Government need to be held to account. If not now, certainly when this is over.  But all the claps and medals for NHS staff are not going to hide the fact we’ve seen too little too late from Boris Johnson and Co.

We are all doing our bit by staying at home and protecting lives, communities are coming together, volunteers are helping vulnerable people, and we’ve witnessed the best of humanity and our emotions. This should make us all very proud.

What we should also expect is the best of our politicians. They need to step up NOW and provide the PPE for key workers, source those ventilators, protect our people on the front line, and as well as providing financial (pay) resources for people to stay at home – give the NHS workers the pay rise they deserve that they so cruelly denied them in 2016 and then clapped the fact they denied them that pay rise. That’s why I find the Tories current enthusiasm for our NHS somewhat disingenuous. I well recall the Tory supporting newspapers calling for doctors to be sacked during their dispute with then Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. We didn’t hear much complaint from the Tory machine then did we?

Andy Burnham (Labour Manchester Mayor) was right, drawing on his Ministerial experiences of the 2001 Foot & Mouth crisis, when saying “put the medical experts in charge”, take it out of the hands of politicians, and give those responsible in this public health crisis the resources they need to fully and properly do their job.

Everywhere else is following WHO advice and testing and tracing to mitigate the risk to help control it. We are not. We don’t even know who’s had it, or who’s safe and immune now to go back to work, help the public health effort, or to get the economy moving again. What’s more, we’re still letting people fly in unchecked and mingle with the population, sometimes on crowded public transport. Why? I think we know the answer. It’s that herd immunity policy whilst at the same time some of the public are getting targeted by the Police for playing in their front garden and London Underground remains crowded in the rush hour. I’d like to say it makes sense but it doesn’t. It’s gone beyond incompetence.

When this is over, and it may be months yet, then our NHS needs proper funding, the Health & Social Care Act 2012 repealing scrapping CCG’s, and putting control back in the hands of properly funded regional health boards with experts in charge, under the Secretary Of State for Health so he/she is accountable to Parliament. We need to get back to the historical levels of NHS funding once the prime investment and expansion is complete, integrate it with social care and provide sufficient resources for a 21st century modern socially motivated economy. If we learn nothing, that is what we should learn. Germany can do it, why can’t we? They have fully resourced hospitals and care services in every town at least the size of Kidderminster. That should be the scale of our ambition as a country. Things can and should never be the same again. We need to do things better.

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