Is the Covid-19 lock-down too little too late, or is Boris doing it right?

As of Saturday 28th March, there have been 1,019 Covid-19 related deaths in the UK and over 17,000 confirmed cases. Key public figures, including Prince Charles, PM Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have tested positive for the virus.

The pandemic continuously escalates on a global scale, with the number of deaths and confirmed cases rising rapidly.

On Monday 23rd March, in a televised address to the nation, Boris Johnson announced a series of lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the virus. He instructed Britons to remain in their homes for three weeks, at least. Only leaving to buy essential supplies such as food and medicine, and to exercise once a day whilst keeping a two-metre distance from other members of the public.

These measures are being enforced by the police. Officers have been given the power to issue fines to anyone violating these measures and the ability to disperse gatherings.

These new draconian rules are unlike anything the British people have experienced before. Only comparable to the restrictions placed on the public during the World Wars. Johnson has been heavily criticised for not implementing such measures sooner. For instance, schools remained open until Friday 20th March and not doing enough to prevent stockpiling. Yet, he has also been met with arguments that these drastic measures impose on the civil liberties of the nation.

This Sunday, the editors will be debating whether Johnson was right to introduce this lockdown to contain the virus now, or whether he has acted too late.

Written by POI Correspondent, Emer Kelly

Underwhelming to begin, brilliant ever since – Conservative Article

Firstly, I would like to begin this article by thanking the NHS and the emergency services for their tiresome work in the past weeks in fighting the Coronavirus. We would be lost without these dedicated workers. They deserve our eternal gratitude for their work on the frontline.

I would also like to thank the government. Although many of the financial measures do not affect me personally, these are difficult times and I know they are doing their utmost to support business and workers. Daily, the concerns of the nation are addressed but they can only go so fast.

Admittedly, I was underwhelmed and frustrated by Johnson and the government’s original response to the outbreak. To prevent the virus from as quickly reaching the UK, more could have been done. It was always going to reach us, but we weren’t prepared when it did. To reduce the likelihood of an outbreak the border should have been shut to non-UK citizens and those quarantined before they could enter.

In saying this, the government have been excellent ever since the outbreak has grown in the UK. In the last week, this government has done an exceptional job supporting business the best they can.

Notable measures by this government are the deferring of VAT and income tax, the 12-month business rate freeze and grants for businesses of all sizes. Of course, I accept the devil is in the detail and not everyone is happy. But these are difficult times, no one is winning. Measures such as these are overwhelmingly helping not hindering businesses and in turn citizens.

This is in addition to the support that the government is offering in terms of employers; paying 80% of the wages of employees so that they can retain employees. This is one of the most important things that have been introduced, allowing our unemployment levels to continue at their low level. Crucial when we come out of the other side of this pandemic.

In response to criticism about the self-employed, the government have also offered 80% of their wages. This will further encourage those who still had to go to work to stay in isolation, without fear of heavy loss in income.

Moving on to the overall measures on citizens, including that to impose a lockdown, Johnson has done an excellent job. Firstly encouraging people to stay at home allowed us to slow down the spread of disease without cause for complete lockdown.

Unfortunately, people haven’t listened to such advice. Since the PM has shown real leadership in the move to lock down the country to dramatically reduce the spread.

Criticisms of the measures imposed by the government will always exist. However, altogether Johnson has provided our economy with the support that it needs. It’s not perfect but nothing is. In a time of crisis, he has been the leader I thought he had the potential to be. Providing support to both the citizens and more importantly business when we need it most.

Written by Chief Conservative writer, Fletcher Kipps

Point of Information

Outlining the positives to cover the mess up? – A Liberal response

Overall, I believe Mr Kipps’ successfully points out the wins of the government so far. However, perhaps forgets some flaws. I’m glad that Mr Kipps acknowledges the slow response by the government because he would be blinded by Boris’ smooth talk if he didn’t.

I agree that the government has stepped up since the outbreak of the virus, by both helping the public and businesses through these challenging times. The decision to help independent businesses, as well as large corporations, is a very positive step by the government.

Yet, is it possible to argue that the government has still harmed businesses across the UK? Although Rishi Sunak has detailed plans to protect British workers and industries; I would argue that the slow reactions by the government have caused more harm.

Since we have now been forced to impose a lockdown, businesses that require people to enter the establishment, for example, restaurants, bars, cinemas, etc., have been impacted the worst. This may cause small/independent businesses to go bust. The key damage we’ve seen is on the high street. Primark and Burger King chains are refusing to pay rent on high streets due to the economic impact of the coronavirus.

I understand that it was inevitable that the virus hit the UK. But I still feel as if we could have prepared better and that speed impacted our defence.

Although the government has discussed the economic impacts of the virus, there are still areas that need to be covered. A big area is education. Although us students have received some news through the university, the department of education needs to be clearer on both the impacts of schools and further education. Universities have been hit hard by both strikes and now the virus, and I believe that the government needs to outline key areas such as tuition fees, assessments and how the next academic year will run.

Written by Liberal writer, Charlie Papamichael

The Importance of our health workers is key! – a Labour response 

I couldn’t agree more with the call to honour our health workers at this time. If only this level of respect, the same one that has us all stood outside our houses clapping our appreciation, had been shown by the Conservative government at any point over the last decade. Instead, they bled the NHS dry. Their hypocrisy is sickening.

Moreover, it’s laughable to read that the government “can only go so fast” after it has gone so crushingly slowly over the last two months. The reality of the Conservative failure to react is so obvious that our Conservative Editor cannot help but acknowledge it. Even in his article from February, he called for immediate measures to suppress the virus. The government’s failure to do so (choosing instead the terrifyingly dangerous pursuit of herd immunity) has jeopardised us all.

And now, he says, their response deserves respect? Where is their respect for those businesses told to close but unable to claim insurance? Where is the respect for the self-employed, whose help won’t arrive until June? Where is the respect for the healthcare staff sent into the front lines without sufficient protection?

There is little, and what comes does so far too late. So don’t believe Boris Johnson’s mewling plea that now is not the time for ideology. It is precisely their ideas, their action, and damning lack thereof, that allowed this crisis to take root in the country. “It’s not perfect, but nothing is”: the battle cry of those unable and unwilling to look their failure in the face.

Written by Chief Labour writer, Evan Saunders

Slow start, but picking up the pace – Liberal Article

The coronavirus, known as Covid-19, has had an impact on countries around the world. The WHO states that there are over 400,000 confirmed cases across the globe. However, the number is most likely higher than that. We are experiencing a global pandemic and as a unified global community, we need to work together.

I believe that lockdown is the best way to tackle the problem. Although many argue that it takes away our “freedom”, I for one could not be less focused on this argument.

Yes, the shops are now closed and we can’t go to the pub with our mates; but can anyone argue that a trip to the pub could cost your life, or someone you know or love? As a society, we have to understand that to restrict the impact of this virus, we have to give up small aspects of our daily life.

Boris and the government have only just realised this, and I’m afraid that he’s too late to join the party. Living in Switzerland, we have been on lockdown since the 17th of March, over a week longer than the UK, and I believe that it has helped. Switzerland has been hit worse, in terms of cases, than the UK. But this does not justify Boris’ slow reaction to the crisis.

The government should have recognised the risks much sooner. Rather than wait for the virus to hit the public, the UK needed to use more measures of prevention. As a whole, I am relieved that Boris has finally come to his senses and imposed a nationwide lockdown and restricting large gatherings.

A point that I would like to bring up is why were we all too slow to react? We knew the outbreak started in China as far back as December 2019, yet we allowed it to travel to and from the host nation for months after.

I believe that the government needed to realise that due to our integrated society, a firmer reaction was required sooner. I understand the social and economic impacts that would have occurred if the government banned travel to and from China, but can you put a monetary price on a person’s life?

It isn’t all doom and gloom though. Wuhan has identified no new domestic cases for a few days now and multiple researchers at various institutions around the world are working on new treatments and vaccines. I believe that the worst is still to come, but we have a moral obligation to follow the instructions set by those we put in power. Following these instructions will spread the impact on the NHS, hopefully increasing the number of patients that can be attended to and reducing the death rate.

Written by Liberal writer, Charlie Papamichael

Point of Information

I understand why the government waited – a Conservative response

Mr Papamicheal presents a good case in criticising the time in which it took the government to lockdown citizens. Although I agree that they may have been able to delay the virus in getting to the UK further, I do believe the government had the right idea in trying to delay a lockdown.

Governments across the world have had to think on their feet regarding how to handle this pandemic; weighing up the risk to citizens health and the risk of halting the economy. I believe although lockdown was inevitable, governments have a responsibility to push this until it is deemed necessary.

By starting to segregate those who are of a higher risk, it would allow the general population to continue to work and keep business moving so there is less of an immediate effect. This eases in business and citizens, whilst the government can come up with a way to fund support for the UK workforce that, in the lockdown scenario, would be out of work.

Johnson warned the nation it was coming. He urged us to take precautions, to not hold big gatherings but many didn’t listen. This is a Prime Minister that gave the public the chance before taking things into his own hands.

It is important to remember that it is easy to argue that something happened too late in retrospect.

Written by Chief Conservative writer, Fletcher Kipps

A very difficult decision – a Labour response

The case for lockdown as our best hope for starving off the worst ravages of this crisis is unassailable. As painful as these strict measures might be in the short term, they pale in comparison to the future we face should we lose our nerve. Our Liberal Editor is right to recognise this and continue to argue for stronger measures, just as he did two months ago in his earlier article.

The above article’s condemnation of our government’s lethargic response is equally justified. All of February, and far too much of March, was lost as they pursued a lone wolf strategy, completely out of line with the WHO and the wider global community.

Shutting down society on this scale is a tremendously difficult decision and one that no Prime Minister ever wants to consider, let alone implement. Preemptive action seems, almost by definition, like an overreaction.

But this preventative principle is well established in the face of a pandemic, as the work of China, South Korea, Singapore and more shows. Our failure to follow their lead suggests only that the Conservatives valued economic prosperity over human health.

Written by Chief Labour writer, Evan Saunders

Too little, too late. I worry for what’s to come – Labour Article

Nearly two months after I first wrote about the government’s response to coronavirus, the world is almost unrecognisable. Nations have gone into lockdown. The subsequent economic effects have crashed global stock markets and recession looms. As East Asian countries begin to emerge from the other end of the tunnel, Europe and America are now the loci of the crisis, death tolls tragically rising.

Those intervening eight weeks now seem to have been the calm before the storm. A time for bracing the nation before the dark clouds rolled over our skies.

Instead, the Conservative government squandered this precious window and endangered us all.

How did they go so wrong? In my original article, I made clear how UK policy should be informed by two clear principles: transparency, and trust in expert medical advice. Both have been cripplingly absent.

Nowhere is the cost of this more clear than in the drastic and damaging U-turn our government was forced to make regarding its strategy. The World Health Organisation has not been above reproach but its message on how governments should react has – test, test and test again.

As late as March 17th, our Government was ignoring this advice and instead advocating a strategy of mitigation. This eschewed the tough suppressive measures seen in East Asia and instead planned to let the virus sweep through the population. Had this been maintained, the NHS would have been completely overwhelmed as up to 250,000 died.

Now, the lockdown has come too late to prevent the virus from taking hold. Infections rise exponentially. Causing politicians and healthcare professionals to scramble for sufficient supply and distribution of the best weapons in this fight: personal protective equipment, ventilators and mass testing.

But preparations for their provision have been just as deeply flawed.  Thanks to the woefully misguided mitigation strategy, far too few tests were carried out because contact tracing was abandoned. As Germany scaled up to 500,000 tests a week, we fell behind. It will take weeks to catch up.

Procurement of ventilators, vital for the most vulnerable, has been just as bad. Offers from not only existing ventilator companies but the EU itself were overlooked again and again. Instead, massive contracts for their manufacture have been given to companies like Dyson, which have no prior experience. As these mistakes begin to be put right, it is once again too little and too late.

And, last but by no means least, the claim from the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harris, that the nation had enough PPE for all, received a stinging rebuke from one Editor of the world’s leading medical journals. He went so far as to call to the rampant mismanagement a national scandal. I wish I could disagree.

All this only scratches the surface of the mistakes and mixed messages that keep piling up: from botched economic measures that pump money to big businesses whilst leaving millions waiting weeks for any hope of help; to decades of savage Tory cuts to the NHS that have stripped the service of its capacity to cope; to Boris Johnson’s glib performances, offering contradictory and confusing advice. More Churchill the Nodding Dog than wartime Winston.

It brings me no pleasure to outline the extent of our government’s failure because we will all bear the consequences. I can only wish you good luck and good health over what is to come.

Written by Chief Labour writer, Evan Saunders

Point of Information

Far too easy to criticise – a Conservative response

Having read his previous articles, it comes as no surprise that Mr Saunders is blaming the rapid spread of the Covid-19 on the current Conservative government. Oh, and of course those “savage Tory cuts” that were only necessary due to the complete mess the last Labour government left us in.

It is easy for anyone to retrospectively look at the way this government has handled the situation and criticise elements that haven’t been perfect. I’m by no means advocating that the government response has been faultless. But it has done its utmost to protect both citizens and our economy under intense pressure.

As for advice, this has been ever-changing throughout the last couple of months. I admit the lack of testing has been a problem. But one that the government has been working hard to address. It’s unchallenging to sit back and demand we test everyone but in terms of how that can be accomplished, it is a lot harder than Mr Saunders alludes to.

I’m just glad that Jeremy Corbyn is not PM. Otherwise, god only knows what kind of further mess this country would be in.

Written by Chief Conservative writer, Fletcher Kipps.

An aggressive approach, but outlining key points – a Liberal Response

I can’t say I’m surprised by Mr. Saunders’ article. Although he harshly analyses the government’s response to the epidemic, he does outline the key flaws. Firstly, he is correct to scrutinise the slow response by the government. I think Mr. Kipps, Saunders and I all agree that Boris was far to slow to react to the reality of the coronavirus. Perhaps Boris was dreaming that the white cliffs of Dover would stop an invasion of the virus. However, in our modern world, where people are on the move 24/7, it is almost impossible to prevent the spread. On the other hand, this does not mean we can do more to prevent deaths.

Take Germany, which has over 50’000 cases, have been able to keep the death rate low. This is due to a face paced, aggressive approach to preventing the spread. Yes, the UK now has similar lockdown procedures in place, but we didn’t do it early enough.

In addition to the reaction rate of the government, Mr. Saunders rightfully discusses the impact on the NHS. Although men and women in the public health sector are putting their lives on the line to protect British citizens, they don’t have the correct resources. Hospitals around the nation are underfunded and understaffed, identifying the systematic flaws. I hope this is a wake-up call to Boris, and future governments, that the NHS is not a perfect healthcare system. As a whole, I agree with Mr. Saunders arguments that Boris did not do enough, early enough. He, and his cabinet, have put British lives at risk due to the relaxed take on the seriousness of the epidemic at the beginning.

Written by Liberal writer, Charlie Papamichael

Fletcher Kipps
Chief Conservative political writer at Point Of Information | Website

I am an incoming third year undergraduate currently studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Exeter. I am socially liberal, fiscally conservative editor here at POI. I have been fascinated by politics for many years, from PMQs to late night election results all which has led to the desire to study this at university.

Charlie Papamichael
Co-head social media marketing at Point Of Information | Website

I am a second year student currently reading International Relations and Modern Languages at the University of Exeter.

Evan Saunders
Chief Labour Writer at Point Of Information | Website

I’m a third year University of Manchester student, currently studying in Lyon on my Erasmus year (by sheer coincidence I’m writing this hours after parliament has voted to end British involvement in the 30 year programme, so just to be on the safe side I promise not to use the NHS/European Declaration of Human Rights/anything at all anytime soon).

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