The Danger of Lock down Sceptism- Peter Wheelband.


Romford Labour’s Peter Wheelband today writes in the Havering Daily.

The latest COVID-19 mortality figures place the UK as the 3rd highest in relation to deaths per population – Only Belgium and Slovenia have a higher percentage . The total deaths in the UK as at 26th January 2021, stood at 98,339 which equates to 1,471 for every 1 million people living here.

Why have we done so poorly in controlling the pandemic ?

The answer to that question is complicated to say the least. Whilst accepting that different countries may be using different criteria when recording COVID-19 data , I think it’s beyond doubt that the UK compares very poorly with the rest of the world. Despite currently being in our 3rd lockdown , figures from the last 7 days show our mortality rate to be the worst in the world over this period (105 per million).

Although I’m personally no fan of the current government, I fully accept that attempting to draw up a road map which navigated us through this awful pandemic was an unenviable task. That said , the number of mistakes made has been catastrophic and it is correct to question many decisions made, for example ;

Going into the initial lockdown far too late ,despite observing events unfolding in countries such as Italy.

Not using our geographic advantage of being an island by imposing strict border controls and therefore restricting the spread of the virus.

Selecting  a Test and Trace system which smacked of cronyism and has failed to justify the £15 Billion budget awarded to it.

Ending lockdown periods too early and implementing schemes  such as Eat out to Help Out which resulted in increased R rates.

Of course there have been numerous other mistakes which will need to be explained by those making the decisions in due course , but for now the focus should be on ensuring previous errors are not repeated.

The government has been under constant pressure from far-right quarters which have argued that the cost of lockdown surpasses the advantages. They argue that the cost to the economy and the delay to other NHS treatments outweighs the protection of the public from COVID-19. It’s an argument which , depending on your circumstances can be quite persuading , however in my opinion it’s dangerously flawed.

The idea that people waiting on crucial operations or chemotherapy would be able to be treated if lockdown finished doesn’t add up. The increased strain on the NHS caused by a rise in the R rate , added to the increased risk of NHS staff contacting COVID-19 would see the NHS completely overrun and unable to provide the service required.

The ongoing cost to the economy is obviously a huge concern . However the argument that a free for all / survival of the fittest approach would have solved this is far fetched. The correct method should have been to lockdown early and stringently , provide financial assistance where required and gradually return to normality. Other countries have successfully done this and are now beginning to grow their economies again .

Unfortunately our media is saturated with right-wing lockdown sceptic contributors such as Laurence Fox , Toby Young , Julia Hartley- Brewer etc who have been the mouth pieces of big business owners determined to get their staff back to work despite the risks involved. There has also been a tiny amount of elected officials such as our very own Romford MP Andrew Rosindell who have sung from this song sheet too , even going as far sometimes as being photographed on public transport not wearing a mask and setting a very poor example.

It’s important though to recognise that not everyone has taken this stance locally. In general, I’ve felt that Havering Council has acted well during the pandemic , encouraging residents to follow safety guidelines at all times. They have also been quick to address certain COVID-19 deniers , and with the limited resources available have helped many individuals. It would be fair to say I’ve been extremely critical of the current Leader of the Council previously , and he still has a huge shadow hanging over him concerning gerrymandering claims , however the message from the Town Hall has been clear and direct and should be applauded. 

The past 10 months have been extremely difficult for everyone. Personally my job of the last 20 years  (London Taxi Driver) became unviable when the pandemic struck and shows no sign of returning anytime soon. Looking for alternative employment has been incredibly difficult – After being accepted for a possible position within the Metropolitan Police , the offer was withdrawn after a cut in government funding. I’ve had to use up any resources I’ve had to survive whilst earning no money , and contracted COVID-19 at Christmas time when just starting a new job training to be a Bus driver.

Despite my life being turned upside down over these 10 months , and struggling at times with my mental health , I know I’ve been one of the lucky ones .I have not lost any family or friends to this awful virus and have somehow managed to keep a roof over my family’s head. I’ve kept myself busy helping to run a 2 month NHS staff appeal with my new friend Carol Karaca which raised £25K worth of items and I’ve been an administrator on the Havering Mutual Aid Facebook page set up by the amazing Andy Walpole. I’ve seen the carnage caused by COVID-19 and pray that this latest lockdown and the vaccination programme will result in some kind of normality ensuing soon.

Stay safe everyone , please continue to follow the lockdown rules and let’s hope this nightmare is over soon.

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