Closing the Augean Stable Door

It is hard to evade media wall-to-wall coverage of the Covid pandemic. To the casual observer, every niance of statistics are reported daily in meticulous detail. Who could want more coverage or more data? A conspiracy theorist might think the floodgates were deliberately opened to mask any need for questions.

For the last month, emphasis has shifted to how well vaccination are going. congratulating scientists, producers and NHS staff. The talk is of light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. Nobody is asking how thetunnel came to be so long and dark in the frst place. Recakking life’s great adages: “when you’re in a hole, stop digging”, the UK government seems to have forgotten this applies equally to tunnels.

That government was slow to  provide a lockdown before March 28th 2020, two months after the first cases in the UK. Since then, millions of travellers have landed at UK airports, startig with many from Italian ski resprts where Covid was rampant. Instead a mantra of “follow the science” and “save the NHS” dominated the Spring until a “world-beating test and trace system” costing £4bn was to rescue us, but didn’t Then “eat out to help out”, plus returning students and schools dragged us al back into lockdown.

A third lockdown is still dragging on, more people are evading the rules and everyone is fed up after a year of this. Mnisters still harangue the public with daily repetitions of ”stay at home; don’t visit anyone, don’t gather anywhere; etc”.

Yet all this time, the borders were open. Even with Brexit complications, 10,000 passengers a day still flooded through Heathrow. Testing of arrivals i was repeatedly rejected as a policy. Though arrivals were asked to self-isolate for two weeks, fewer than 3 in 100 were checked and most did mot comply. By the end of January, at over 104,000, Brtain had suffered the highest per capita Covid-related deaths in the world. Only now is there serious talk of requiring strict monitored quarantine for 10 days in a hotel.

Through all this, the government has repeatedly claimed the best actions in circumstances no-one foresaw. All discussion of shortcomings, failutes in test and trace, damage to economy have been swamped by feel-good focus on vaccine successes.

But those 104,000-and-rising deths demand some explanation. Because, looking beyond the veil of silece the government and media draw over elsewhere makes thoughtful observers pause. For this pandemc took everyone by surprise, including countries of comparable competence who have performed much better.

Not only is Britain the worst in Europe but its performance is shameful compared globally. Why should South Korea, with no NHS and both a polulation and GDP comparable to England have under 2% as many deaths and be almost back to normal? Schools, restaurants, concerts, etc are functional. Mwanwhile, London suffers 1 in 35 of its citizens infected, hospitals overflowing and no end in sght to a lockdown damaging both economy and residents’ metal health.

Nor is South Korea alone. Most of Europe is doing twice as well and New Zealand has executed an enviably successful campaign, as can be seen from the following charts.

What could cause such disparity? Is high regard for the NHS misplaced? Are the Brits susceptible geriatrics? Are Brits more bolshie in lockdown compliance? None of these?

What then?

The clue lies in other islands. New Zealand and Australia acted fast, implementing a strict 2-week quarantine for any arrival—visitor or citizen. The statistics for New Zealand speak for themselves. Like South Korea (whose closed land border makes it effectively an island), they are enjoying normal lives.

You can see the difficulty European countries face, especially Schengen Area. Countries like Germany have long, open borders. Controlling traffic is impossible. But what about Britain? It’s an island too. Why are its statistics not anywhere near New Zealand’s or South Korea’s?

For the last yea, Britain declined to close its border. At first, it allowed everyone in. Only since October has it made any attempt to restrict traffic—and then only from certain countries. It seems evident from comparisons above that this is a major reason for Britain’s appalling record, which continues unabated, despite over 7m vaccines having been administered to date.

But why pursue such a patently damaging policy? The UK government may not be perfect but it does things for a reason. Why should it want millions of people to enter the country during a deadly pandemic? As is common in such things, follow the money.

It is hard to make an absolute connection, but the underlying factor that raises most sense is a history of political donations totalling over £8m made by donors in the aviation businesses to UK parties, with further sums to MPs, as illustrated below.

Source: https://www.desmog.co.uk/2019/12/06/revealed-brexit-party-and-conservatives-have-received-8m-aviation-industry

The Conservative Party received £2.8m of the above. Sitting members of that party rreceived the lion’s share of donations from those same aviation businesses. These included: BAA (now Heathrow Airports Holdings), the previous owner of several other UK airports including Gatwick, Stansted, Edinburgh and Glasgow, which gave £1.2m. Significant amounts have been donated by well-known companies such as Airbus and Virgin Atlantic. More than half of the donations come from Christopher Harborne, CEO of AML Global, a major aviation fuel supplier. 

Source: https://www.desmog.co.uk/2019/12/06/revealed-brexit-party-and-conservatives-have-received-8m-aviation-industry

Official records show how airports, airlines and aircraft manufacturers have made hundreds of contributions, either in cash or to cover the cost of politicians’ travel. Liam Fox is not only the largest beneficiary, but the most hypocritical, having publicly stressed the need to “reduce the consumption of fossil fuels” but has backed fracking and told an oil and gas conference that “for the moment, we do require fossil fuels to deliver secure and affordable energy.” Even before the pandemic hit, Johnson’s then-new government was already being accused of doing favours for Richard Branson in a deal to rescue FlyBe a year ago.

There is, of course, no concrete link between donations to Conservatives by aviation businesses and a continued reluctance to fight Covid as othrs have—by closing down air links. This Augean stable door has been left open still —and it stinks.

About davidsberry

Local ex-councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Retired in 2017.
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