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🦠 Justice for the 126,000: Never Forget, Make No Excuses

Just over a year after COVID-19 found its way to Britain's shores, the UK has registered 126,000 deaths in this pandemic. Our total number of cases, total deaths and death rate per 100,000 are all some of the highest in the world.

CountryCasesDeathsPer 100,000
UK4,347,013 (6th)126,834 (5th)190.8 (7th)

It's clear that the government has failed to keep the people of this country safe, and we desperately need an inquiry into the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK, but already conservative commentators in the media and online are desperately white-washing the government's handling of this crisis.

"If you adjust for age and population we're not doing so bad!" they say, "What about population density?" The reality is the UK has lost so many lives in this pandemic that it seems no matter what metric you use to compare us to other countries, we're still one of the worst hit in the world.

"Our vaccine programme is going really well compared to Europe," say some pundits, "their death tolls will catch up to ours soon!" That may well be the case, but a good vaccination programme doesn't bring 126,000 people back to life. When some countries have managed to register deaths in the tens and hundreds, how can we justify over a hundred thousand by simply saying "Oh well, some countries will overtake us soon"?

"The government has done everything it can in a bad situation!" many are saying. "They did everything SAGE told them to - read the minutes for yourself!" The problem with that is, we all just lived through this pandemic and saw with our own eyes that the government has repeatedly ignored advice and delayed life-saving measures. We all know that the UK has performed very badly compared to similar countries, despite presumably having access to all the same data about the virus.

The point about SAGE is worth unpacking, because we can read the minutes and most of them do appear to show that the government closely followed SAGE's advice. But that's not the end of the story for several important reasons:

  • Remember, the government tried to prevent the minutes from being published in the first place. Why?
  • The minutes mostly contain bullet points relating to the final decisions made by the whole committee, rather than individual points and objections raised by different members during meetings.
  • SAGE attendees are not just healthcare professionals and scientists - they include conservative partisans, economists, and some mystery attendees who have been blanked out of the documents.
  • We've all just lived through the government ignoring independent (non-SAGE) scientists when it came to handshakes, masks, social distancing, sending children back to school and lockdowns. We know it happened from other sources published in the news media at the time, why don't the minutes reflect that?
  • Given all of the above, did the final decisions described in the minutes properly reflect the concerns of scientists? Were they watered down by the other attendees?

These are questions that need answering, in a proper, independent public inquiry. An inquiry which leaves no stone unturned and isn't afraid to ruffle a few feathers. This isn't about scoring party political points, it's about holding our politicians to account for decisions which may have resulted in a much worse death toll than the UK would otherwise have suffered. We must never forget the decisions that led to this point, we must not make excuses for a government if it ignored the facts and put our lives in danger, and we must not allow conservative commentators to sweep this under the rug. The victims of this pandemic and their families deserve the truth.