The government carried out 86,583 tests on the 7th May, which is significantly lower than their promised 100,000 per day.Flickr/Governor Tom Wolf

The UK government’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis has been a farce. The testing programme is an abject failure, leadership is directionless, and accountability has been forgotten. On April 6th, Boris Johnson vowed that the government would test 100,000 people by the end of the month. The government “miraculously” reached this target on May 1st, recording an impressive 122,327 tests in one day. After just two days, however, this figure fell below 90,000 and has continued to stay there for five days in a row. Such dubious reporting and failure to meet targets would see you sacked in any other professional setting.

"Setting targets is all well and good, but they must be legitimately adhered to and measured against."

Once again, we were subjected to self-aggrandising rhetoric in the May 6th briefing, during which the government vowed to test 200,000 people a day by the end of this month. How do they expect to do this when a quarter of the way through they are still failing to consistently meet last month’s target? The Government refuses to acknowledge its failure to properly coordinate and sustain a testing programme. Setting targets is all well and good, but they must be legitimately adhered to and measured against. That has not happened. What we have witnessed is a continuous readjustment of the parameters to ensure success. Everytime it appears the government is off target, they shift the goalposts. The only way that this government will realistically reach their testing target is if they wheel out Priti Patel to read the numbers again.

The government has skewed the data repeatedly. First by talking about the capacity for testing, and then by drastically changing their counting methodology on the 27th of April. Now, testing numbers include tests that have been ‘posted to an individual at home’ regardless of whether they have been returned or completed. Students will be relieved to know that all of those supervision essays that they were set, but did not complete, can be counted as an “essay done” - at least according to Matt Hancock’s apparent logic.

"[...]the daily briefings are less about accountability and transparency and more about disseminating the government line."

Despite all of this, the government is still considering adjusting lockdown measures on Sunday, potentially loosening some of the restrictions from as early as Monday. This comes despite there being no consistent drop in new cases. This is a total failure of sensible leadership and a transparent capitulation to the senseless squawking of the tabloids. The tabloids’ faux concern with lockdown’s ‘curtailment’ of our freedom is particularly odd, given that they had nothing to say when our government was taking away the rights and liberties of the Windrush generation, migrant families and asylum seekers. No doubt they will be up in arms tomorrow over the High Court’s ruling that the Home Office’s ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ policy is unlawful - the policy is a human rights violation that plunges working migrant families into penury. We cannot ease lockdown restrictions without a functional and consistent testing programme. A second spike is likely to be inevitable without a vaccine, but it must be appropriately monitored. We can support a phased return to normality, but we must have the mechanisms in place to ensure it can be done safely.

As each day passes, the daily briefings are less about accountability and transparency and more about disseminating the government line. There are no prizes for honesty, only for coming up with the next best three-word slogan to brandish on all communications. Particularly striking was Raab’s not-so-subtle attempts to curb our expectations this evening to protect the government from our inevitable disappointment on Sunday. The last time Boris Johnson gave a briefing was the 30th April, over a week ago. The Prime Minister has clearly become accustomed to delegating his duties. Sometimes it is more suitable for ministers to lead briefings that contain department-related announcements, but Raab and Gove have had nothing unique to offer other than a convenient reprieve for our evasive Prime Minister. The last time a Prime Minister was so sorely absent at a time of crisis was during WWI.


Mountain View

We must see through the veil of veneration surrounding Captain Tom Moore

In a world of uncertainty, there has been one constant – the negligence and incompetence of our government. Our failures have been outdone only by the USA, a fact that provides me with very little relief. The government must stop shifting the goalposts to avoid its self-imposed obligations. As we exceed 30,000 deaths (when we were told 20,000 would be a “good result”), I wonder what they will say next. Probably nothing about their PPE failures, nothing about their testing failures, and nothing about the disproportionate suffering of our BAME population. If it doesn’t present as an opportunity to congratulate themselves, the government is not interested.

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