Anne Marie Waters
April 22nd 2020
It’s easy to criticise the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, but we should remember we’re in unchartered waters and nobody has been here before. However, it is the job of the government to act in the people’s best interests, even (or especially) at difficult times like this.
There have been enormous failings for example regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) for key workers. This isn’t necessarily Johnson’s personal doing however, because most Western countries find ourselves in the same position; unable to be self-sufficient because we’ve outsourced key manufacturing year on year on year.
Britain is a country that has been so badly run for so long that we appear to be incapable of producing our own plastic gowns. That isn’t true of course, Britain is perfectly capable of producing plastic gowns, but British manufacturers are not asked, instead we are relying on China (the source of the virus) and now it seems on Turkey.
At around 3.30 this morning an RAF plane carrying a consignment of protective equipment landed in the UK. The plane had been sent to Turkey to pick up what is thought to include some 400,000 urgently needed surgical gowns. The equipment was supposed to arrive on Sunday, but delay has resulted in this undoubtedly expensive trip to Istanbul.
Meanwhile, ventilators are ordered from China because those produced by British manufacturers do not meet NHS specifications. This is quite incredible. We must ask why. Why do ventilators produced in the UK not meet NHS specifications? Presumably these are then for export. But why do we rely on others for products we can make for ourselves? I’m not suggesting we do no international trade and make absolutely every product ourselves, but surely we must recognise how vulnerable we are in being this reliant on other nations; in the case of China, potentially hostile ones.
In an emergency situation such as this, the government should buy emergency produce from homegrown business – why not give our own people a boost? The only possible answer is cost: we have spent decades demanding inferior products from far away places and undercutting our own manufacturers. This is the result.
The government is coming under increasing criticism furthermore because of the growing impact on the economy. The lockdown will hit us hard and medical advisors are advising that it should not end prematurely. One thing that would help however is testing, and here again the government has come under fire.
Laura reported on testing being a political problem as early as April 1st, and there aren’t many signs of improvement since then. The procurement of testing has been described as “a fiasco” but Dominic Raab has today insisted that the government will meet its target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April; 82,000 more than at present. This is a tall order.
The lack of testing has of course had a negative impact on the NHS (and the wider economy) as the likelihood is that there are people perfectly capable of working but who are staying at home just when they are needed most.
There are no easy solutions to any of these problems, but at times like this, tough decisions must be made. These decisions will have ramifications for years to come, but that is the responsibility that government takes on.
There is a real opportunity to learn from this crisis. We should learn about self-sufficiency and ensure we are capable of protecting ourselves when we enter a particularly difficult period in the future.
More urgently though, this lockdown needs to now be brought to an end. This cannot happen overnight we know, but firm plans must be put in place, as soon as possible, to get this country back to work.
Anne Marie Waters
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