If Brexit had to happen, the most sensible way would have been to remain in the single market and in the type of close collaborative relationship that Norway and Iceland have with the EU. This would have avoided all the problems we have experienced and would have been more in keeping with the tiny majority in favour of Brexit in 2016.
Author: Giuseppe Bignardi
Giuseppe Bignardi is a retired Microbiology/Infection NHS Consultant
The starting point in the author’s analysis is that Donald Trump’s election was the consequence of dissatisfaction with economic stagnation and was based on a rhetoric that appealed to both the right and the left wing of the political spectrum.
On 17 March, the EU announced the intention of changing its export policy, particularly in relation to countries which are also vaccine producers. The EU argues that there needs to be reciprocity and proportionality to make sure there is an equitable distribution of vaccines. I do not know the details of the EU vaccine export plan, but I do know that Boris Johnson has failed on reciprocity and global solidarity.
The government has failed to put together a plan to rescue the social care sector, despite Boris Johnson’s claim in 2019 that he would fix the crisis in social care “with a clear plan we have prepared”. The NHS also needs extra funding to deal with the huge backlog of non-Covid health needs. Rishi Sunak made no mention of either social care or improved NHS funding in his budget statement.
It is good to have a roadmap, but is it wise to have dates if we are really going be guided by “data not dates”? Now that dates have been announced, there will be a formidable resistance to change them, regardless of the data.
Boris Johnson’s government has fared badly in this pandemic, mostly because of delays in introducing restrictions and a dysfunctional privatised ‘test and trace’ system. This has resulted in one of the highest death rates.
Countries acting individually will not deliver the number of vaccines the world needs (Zosia Kmietowicz in the British Medical Journal on 6 February). Joint vaccine procurement schemes, as used by the EU and the African Union, are slower to set up but ensure equitable vaccine distribution at lower prices.
Do vaccines produced in a country ‘belong’ to that country, until all needs of that country have been satisfied? This is the policy of the US administration and appears to be at the centre of the recent dispute between Astra Zeneca (AZ) and the EU.
When Stanley Johnson, Boris’ father, stood in front of the cameras to explain why he had applied for French passport, he said: “It’s not a question of becoming French. If I understand correctly, I am French! My mother was born in France, her mother was completely French as was her grandfather”.
It is too early to say what is the most effective vaccine. None of the vaccine studies have yet been completed and we do not know what the efficacy is in the long-term or in relation to virus variants or in specific sub-groups such as immunocompromised patients.
The 2016 referendum on our EU membership was intended as an exercise in democracy, but it failed in many respects. The reality of our EU membership was compared with a nebulous Brexit project: many UK voters thought they were voting to retain a close relationship with the EU as Norway has. After a 51.9% majority in the referendum vote, an ideological minority has taken control of the Conservative Party and is imposing a hard Brexit.
Populism requires hate targets as well as the illusion that there are simple solutions to complex problems.
Fishing is a sticking point in the Brexit negotiations. The UK has rejected an offer to reduce the EU states fishing quota by 15-18%. Fishing is of relatively little importance to the UK (0.1% of our GDP) but it has become a symbolic issue. Our government wants an exclusive right to set fishing policies as a demonstration of UK sovereignty.
The lateral flow test that the government intends for mass testing is potentially less sensitive than RT-PCR, especially when used by self-trained members of the public. Is there a point in using tests that miss half or more of the infection cases? The introduction of population screening, with awareness of the test results, is likely to inform behaviour, but misplaced ‘reassurance from missed cases could potentially increase [infection] transmission’.
Education is important and must continue. But extending the half term holiday from one to two weeks would have been timely, achievable and provided a useful firebreak, possibly followed by specific, more realistic policies to suppress infection in educational settings when they reopened. For example, some countries have mandatory face coverings in classrooms and have adopted school rotas for pupils above the age of thirteen, as advocated by our National Education Union.
The reality of the subsequent peace treaty turned out to be different and the German perception of betrayal contributed to the rise of Nazism in Germany and to WW2. What really destabilised the new democratic German Republic was the imposition of exorbitant war reparations onto a country with a devastated economy and a starving population.
Our regulations are so complex and they change so frequently that many are confused. Not even the Prime Minister could recollect the correct details of the restrictions when interviewed.
Speed of vaccination in Western countries may depend on whether access to an initially limited supply of vaccine is restricted to a few countries or whether there would be a wider and more equitable distribution of the vaccine from the outset. An initial high price for the vaccines would also be a barrier for lower income countries.
Coronavirus testing has been a litany of failures, now we have the Moonshot folly
South Tyneside is the local authority in the North East with the highest number of Coronavirus infection cases (per 100,000 population) according to the latest PHE weekly report issued on 11th September
The UK government has been repeatedly wrong on face masks and now is declining to disclose the details of how the PPE procurement money has been spent.
The Channel asylum seekers are a composite group: many are escaping armed conflict or persecution. Others are escaping poverty or dreaming about a better life. There is no difference, in this respect, between them and the large number of British and European migrants that have shaped world history.
Many commentators currently believe that ministers are scapegoating PHE for their own failures.
Schools in the UK have been totally or partially closed since 20th March. This time has not been utilised well to make realistic and sustainable plans for reopening. Boris Johnson has argued that reopening schools in September with full attendance is necessary to restart the economy. He has subsequently put more emphasis on the concept […]
During this challenging time, discovering and producing a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine in a short period of time is a formidable challenge, but not the only one. Despite the evident benefits of vaccines (10 million deaths were saved by vaccines just in 2010-2015), the influence of anti-vaccination movements is increasing. However, history shows us […]
Boris Johnson has rejected a level playing field with the EU in relation to workers’ rights and other standards. This position makes it increasingly likely that there will not be a trade deal with the EU.
Divergence from Boris Johnson appears to have reduced the number of infections in Scotland As from the 10 July 2020 the wearing of face covering inside shops is mandatory in Scotland. The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has not refrained from being seen wearing a face mask, unlike the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson […]
The NHS came to life on 5th July 1948. This year’s birthday celebration occurred at a difficult time, just after the first wave of coronavirus. Things are not going to get easier: there is already a huge backlog of elective and cancer care, as well as the risk of a second wave of coronavirus in […]
The Westminster government has announced the reopening of more venues, the end of shielding for vulnerable individuals and the reduction of the safe distance from two metres to ‘one metre plus’. Are these the right measures and is this the right time? A recently published study (The Lancet, 1st June 2020) has shown that reducing the […]