While the new coronavirus was spreading across China and then Italy and Spain, the UK, under our Brexit-obsessed and otherwise dysfunctional government, went about it’s business as usual. When it did arrive on our shores the plan seems to have been to allow people – expected to reach 60% of the population – to get the disease so that a ‘herd’, and they actually used that word, immunity would emerge. It appeared that the vulnerable people in the herd would have to take their chances.
The one day someone did the sums. Not difficult. With a population of about seventy million and the overall mortality rate of 1-2% it means that the number expected to need hospital treatment far exceeds the capacity of the NHS. It’s even worse for older people, with a mortality rate of around 3% for 60-year olds up to 15% for those in their 80s. Hence the change of tack. At long last Johnson’s government faced up to the potential disaster and did what most other countries had already done. Clearly with reluctance, ‘suggested’ restrictions on movement were introduced until, finally, at the start of this week we entered the nearest thing to a lockdown that a Conservative government could conceive.
This is a nasty virus. Coughing and a fever are the initial symptoms and for the young and fit this can be very mild. But the older and more vulnerable the patient the more likely it is that shortness of breath will follow to the extent that a patient may require a ventilator to help them survive. But it emerged that, along with protective equipment for NHS staff, there is a significant shortage of ventilators, with only a few thousand available to the NHS where tens of thousands will be needed.
This is where the Tory government showed it’s true colours. When existing suppliers of ventilators offered to provide all the machines they had access to, the suggestion was not taken up. Nor did it the government agree to be part of a combined EU purchasing programme which would have speeded up delivery. Instead, Conservative-supporting manufacturers were enlisted to start producing ventilators from scratch. The worst example is the case of Dyson, the vacuum cleaner manufacturer, who’s founder, James Dyson, has been an avid Conservative fan. Dyson is a vocal supporter of Brexit, despite having moved his manufacturing base from Wiltshire to Singapore in 2002 and last year announced plans for his HQ to follow. His company is known for redesigning the wheel into something a lot more expensive. This ventilator redesign, funded by our government, will cause a delay and cost lives.
Now I’m seventy years old and more at risk of a bad outcome from coronavirus than the majority of the population. It’s not that I’m afraid of dying. I would prefer a few more years but I quite accept that there are many people that are more of a priority than me. But I don’t want to die gasping for breath because no ventilator is available, particularly if that’s due to many years of chronic underfunding of the NHS and putting business the way of your chums. If I die, the fault lies fairly and squarely with consecutive Conservative governments who have failed to give the NHS the funding it needs, seek every opportunity to favour their supporters and have cut corners on disaster planning ‘red tape’.
How did we end up like this? Why do people keep voting Tory?