It arrived yesterday afternoon, four pages long and purporting to give me ‘Important advice on covid-19’ because I’m ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ which is hardly news to me. I’ve been ‘shielding’ for the last three months. The first piece of advice they had for me was predictable too. ‘You are advised to follow the shielding guidance rigorously.’
Then their message got vague. Well there’s a surprise. ‘On 1st June the shielding guidance was slightly relaxed… you may wish to spend some time outdoors away from your home once a day.’ And they explained that ‘this change was based on scientific evidence that the initial peak of the epidemic had passed in the UK.’ Nothing was quoted from any source. to support that statement. Well there’s a surprise! So I looked up the figures from the World Health Organisation. Number of cases in the UK to date 306,862, number of deaths 43,081, supported by a very clear graph which showed that the mortality figures were still rising, although more slowly than they had originally. But no indication at all that the peak was passed. Other scientific organisations agreed although their mortality totals were even higher at 65,700.
Then they ended the first page with a neat little get-out clause. ‘Like all our guidance to those who are clinically vulnerable, this was advisory.’ Well,well, well. So if you don’t follow their advice that’s up to you, but if you do follow it and you catch the virus, it’ll be all your own fault. Nice to know.
So on to page 2, where we are told of the changes that are coming. On July 6th we can meet in a group of six people or form ‘a bubble’ with one other household. But again we are told that this is an ‘advisory’ change.
From 1st August ‘you no longer need to shield’. We can go to work, our children can go to school, we can go shopping for food, or to places of worship or for exercise. But we are advised to ‘follow strict social distancing’.
Then on to page three and some ‘facts’ at last. ‘All Government decisions on Shielding advice are led by the latest scientific evidence.’ Really? What evidence was that? They don’t tell us. We’re just told that ‘four weeks ago, around one person in 500 had the virus’ and that ‘last week it was even lower with less than one in 1,700 having the virus.’ If I hadn’t watched the Prime Mendaciter and his minions spewing out lies on a daily basis, I might have been taken in.
They finish on a regal flourish. If we are in trouble, not to worry, there are all sorts of organisations who will help. Top of the list is our cash-strapped, overworked NHS, then come our equally cash strapped GPs, councils and charities. ‘Who do you think you are kidding Mr Johnson?’
And then there were the signatures. ‘Matt’ and ‘Robert Jenrick’.I didn’t know who the last one was so decided that this morning I would look him up. But I didn’t need to. This morning the man was all over the front pages. ”Jenrick under pressure to quit as Tory donor documents released.” So I read it and an unsurprisingly sordid story it was. Robert Jenrick, in his role as Housing Secretary, had insisted that a planning decision on a £1 billion property development should be rushed through so that a Tory donor’s company could reduce costs on the deal by £45 million. And who was the Tory donor? Why none other than our old friend Richard Desmond, owner of the Express newspapers, and great friend of one Boris Johnson. And why did he want this decision speeded up? Because the speed would enable him to avoid the need to pay £45 million to Labour run Tower Hamlets. As he put it himself in his charming way. ‘We don’t want to give Marxists loads of doe (sic) for nothing.’
And as if that weren’t revelation enough, I found another news item. There had been a UK Labour opposition day motion asking for routine weekly Covid-19 testing for NHS and care workers and the House had defeated it by 344 votes to 198. And to make assurance doubly sure, it had approved an amendment against it without a division. The amendment was proposed by the PM, Matt Hancock, Therese Coffey, Gavin Williamson, Robert Jenrick and Jacob Rees-Mogg. What a grizzly crew they are.
I’m going to give the last word here this morning to a novelist called Matt Haig. (You redeem the name Matt), writing on Twitter.
‘Just think,’ he wrote. ‘If the government had locked down when they were advised, if they had been as quick as others with test and trace, if they’d been clear with their messaging, if they had protected care homes, if they didn’t have Dominic Cummings, we could be ending lock-down safely.’