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Now isn’t the time to be criticising the Government over coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 14:11 21 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:14 22 April 2020

Michael Gove has defended the PM. Photo: PA Video/PA Wire

Michael Gove has defended the PM. Photo: PA Video/PA Wire

The Government may well have questions to answer about their handling of the coronavirus crisis but can we let them get on with fixing it first?

The backlash has begun.

When we thought our Prime Minister might die, all bets were off. Journalists held back. People who had never really been his biggest fan, me included, starting feeling sad about a world with no Boris in it, even if it was purely because he makes such a great focal point for whatever irritation we might be feeling at the time!

But after holding back while the Prime Minister was in intensive care, his apparent recovery has allowed for a much fuller analysis of how he and his Government have handled the pandemic so far.

The weekend was full of articles in the national papers about how the Government has failed us by not being more prepared.

They knew a pandemic was a very real possibility. They focused on other things and undoubtedly underestimated the radical response and resources that were ultimately going to be necessary.

It is the job of journalists to call power to account and the fact that Boris Johnson did not attend five key COBRA meetings about the pandemic in late January and February clearly requires justification.

I am glad there are journalists looking into this and of course the Government must explain themselves. Michael Gove sees nothing unusual in Johnson’s absence from COBRA – his position seems to be that Boris was delegating but still keeping abreast of everything which sounds reasonable, although Gordon Brown’s former adviser, Damian McBride, says Brown, by comparison, attended all COBRA meetings related to foot and mouth disease, so it was a point worth raising.

But all managers approach things differently. One approach does not automatically trump another. And I can’t help but feel that throwing stones at this time about where things could have been done better two months 
ago is not going to achieve anything very positive or useful in the here and now.

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The messages I am getting from readers are all crying out for hope and while there will be a time to assess how well this unprecedented situation has been handled thus far, I am not sure it is terribly productive at this time. I don’t want our governors rushing to defend themselves ahead of rushing out on the front foot to make things better for our key workers, and for those in real economic need, right now.

It may well be that the Government buried its head in the sand – but, while a time will come when they will need to justify this, and rightly, we should also balance this criticism with a bit of, ‘well, didn’t we all?’

Insufficient PPE, a lack of urgency and a swing from a herd immunity strategy to a lockdown approach, these are all vital issues. But we, as a country, need to be careful that because we are all sitting at home with nothing to do but fret, we might be getting irate about things that aren’t helping improve things that could be improved right now just because we need to let off a bit of steam.

There is a time and place for everything, and, right now, I am finding that life is a lot more pleasant when I am looking to fix today what I can fix today, rather than beating myself up about what I should have done yesterday.

Clearly at the moment what we need is a clear exit strategy for lockdown and to prioritise our key workers getting the equipment and support they need. These are the things I want to hear about from the Government now. By all means beat them up about yesterday. But let’s not do it today.

A nice note

Speaking of readers looking for the positives, I had a nice note from a reader over the weekend.

“Dear Liz, My wife and I are both in our mid eighties and whilst we have reason to be grateful to the NHS both for ourselves and some relatives we are now receiving superb help from the Care sector. But we very much feel that it, both state and private, does not receive the due attention and finance, being completely overshadowed by the NHS through the activities of the media. So, would you be prepared to champion them ? Also, we feel that there must be so much good news which is never reported. Such as the many who are tested as positive but suffer no ill effects and those released from hospital who recover successfully. Please, Liz, champion the (silent) majority.”

Well, hopefully, I have now begun to.

Do let me know if you have good experiences of the care sector or any other good news you wish to share at liz.nice@archant.co.uk


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