ON THE 28th June 2020 Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary announced a local lockdown for the City of Leicester. The next day, on 29th June, when launching the government’s New Deal “Build, Build, Build” Covid-19 recovery plan, Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, let the cat out of the bag.
He for the first time admitted, “ we all know that continued support of the furlough scheme is unstainable.”
In publicly admitting what many have known since day one of the government’s Covid-19 financial support scheme, he was also admitting another important point which many of us have also known since day one:
That is that the government would not be able to afford to remain in lockdown indefinitely, and would have to come out of lockdown irrespective of whether the policy was successful or not.
The problem would then be, how to come out of lockdown without admitting it was a failure?
The answer? To convince the public that their sacrifices had achieved success, but that it was borderline, dependent on them continuing to be compliant, and to be prepared for the necessity to have local lockdowns if there was a flare-up.
The reality is that the lockdown has not been a success. The only aspects of the government’s covid-19 policies which have been successful, have been the purely medical measures. Those measures are not lockdown.
In countries which have not inflicted lockdowns on their populations, it is the medical measures which have been successful. They have actually had lower death rates than the UK’s, ( which at the time of writing is 644 per million). Taiwan’s is an amazing 0.3 per million, South Korea’s 6 per million and Belarus 41.
Even Sweden, who are constantly attacked by lockdown proponents, is well below the UK at 528 deaths per million. Their citizens at least have not had to suffer their economy and society being shut down as the people of the UK have.
The government has been coming out of lockdown without winning the fight against Covid-19, simply because they cannot afford their current policy any longer.
So they maintain the pretence that their lockdown policy is winning against Covid-19 by presenting the concept that they might have to deal with local pocket flare ups by imposing local lockdowns.
This creates the impression that lockdown is the cure for Covid, when it never has been anything of the sort.
The idea of having local lockdowns had been fed to the media quite subtlety a few weeks ago, so it could sink into the public’s awareness and become more acceptable.
Public Health England have said up to 36 areas in England have “suffered a spike in coronavirus cases over the past fortnight.”
However, they are likely to be in local pockets in those areas, and not significant, but that will not stop the government imposing further local lockdowns if it serves their political expediency.
Government Ministers have warned that individual towns and cities could be put back into lockdown if they see coronavirus cases rise again once restrictions are lifted. But what they need to accept is that lockdown is not the answer, and it is deaths, not cases which are the relevant factor.
The reality is that Covid-19 has mainly been in local pockets all along.
Either in care homes, in hospitals, in cramped working conditions such as factories, close proximity living areas, in the BAME communities, in the vulnerable and elderly, and so on.
Where is the justification for this local lockdown?
If Leicester is examined, what has happened is that someone decided to increase the covid-19 tests in parts of the City and there was an increase in positive results. (Not that test rates are the major factor anyway, as it is the death rates which are important).
This is hardly surprising and the Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, said that the same would be likely to happen if increased tests were carried out in any large UK city.
It seems that there are now 1059 confirmed cases in Leicester, including 366 new cases recorded in May and June. Currently 6 cases a day of these going into hospital. The total deaths to date are 271, out of a UK total of 43,730.
It does not seem that these deaths have accelerated to justify a lockdown which affects over 650,000 people. What does not help the situation is the confusion around the subject of testing and the number of cases, as different figures are banded about. Leicester City Council claim there have been 3216 laboratory confirmed covid-19 tests so far of which they maintain 944 were in the last fortnight.
The public can hardly have confidence in the reliability of the information they are given.
Covid safety measures have not been adhered to in vulnerable areas
It turns out that the Covid-19 cases have mainly occurred in the eastern part of the City.
This is an area which is two-thirds populated by the BAME ( Black and Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities. It is well known that they are more susceptible to covid-19, for a number of reasons.
These include many living with intergenerational and multi-occupancy households, and many other factors such as poor standards of living and crowded working conditions.
Poor standards at some manufacturing facilities a key factor
An article in the Guardian on 30th June, quoting on a report from a campaigning group called “Labour Behind the Label,” stated that some garment factories in Leicester stayed open as normal throughout the coronavirus crisis and ordered workers to report for duty even when they were sick.
There also allegations that workers were forced to work despite high levels of infections in factories and accusations of “furlough fraud.” Workers in a number of factories said that there had been no social distancing measures and that employers had closed only for a few days, if at all
Mick Cheema, whose Basic Premier Brand has often been highlighted as an ethical clothing manufacturer in the city, said he was aware of “manufacturers who have been operating without a risk assessment in place for Covid.”
He also said that “social distancing within those workplaces is not normal. Some have carried on working as they did before the crisis.”
As well as problems with factory conditions, others have suggested that the outbreak gained pace among workers in food processing sites where there were crowded working conditions.
It is known that officials at Public Health England had found evidence that young men, mainly Asian, between 20 and 40 who work in the city’s garment factories and food processing plants were major vectors of transmission.
However, they and others seem to have shied away from addressing these issues and instead decided to target the whole are of Leicester. This is not the way to resolve this.
It seems that they have been too timid to confront these issues because of worries about being accused of blaming the BAME communities.
Far from it, it assists them if the problems are recognised and the help and resources are given to resolve them. This is the way to deal with this, to target assistance specifically to where it is needed, and not to lock down the whole City and outlying areas because that is running away from the problem.
Should you “punish” 650,000 people for a small number of Covid-19 positive test results?
It is not going to help the BAME communities at all if everyone is “punished” for living in a City which has simply had an increase in Covid-19 cases ( not deaths as such).
In fact it has been insinuated by some of those in government and the more speculative media, that this “spike” in cases has been the fault of the citizens of Leicester for being irresponsible.
Nothing could be further from the truth as the people of Leicester have been as compliant with government guidelines as much as any other UK city.
It is true that there have been some public gatherings and that a small section of the Asian community have been averse to government guidelines, as stated, but the general behaviour has been no worse than anywhere else.
It has been wrong to single out Leicester for this “refresher” lockdown treatment, but this is what has happened
To give an example of how the vast majority of companies in Leicester have been very conscious of Covid-19 health and safety issues, Walkers Crisps factory has recently had 28 employees confirmed as having Covid-19 out of their staff of 1400. However, these cases coincided with the rollout and uptake of testing in Leicester. Health authorities have confirmed that the factory does not have transmission issues, and these cases were infected elsewhere. Any employee who has contracted the virus is sent home to self- isolate.
It has to be wrong to “punish” all of Leicester for an apparent outbreak which is affecting a very small number of people.
Who is to blame for this lockdown?
Why it has happened is another question, but part of the reason is that Leicester people need look no further than their own Labour MP’s. They have avoided the key issues and effectively blamed the whole City.
Leicester East MP, Claudia Webbe had been popping up in the media actually advocating a local lockdown, and her comments demonstrated clearly that she did not understand the subject let alone her own constituency.
As for the Leicester South MP, Jon Ashwood, who is the Shadow Health Secretary, he had obviously been complicit with the government on the lockdown. He could have made sure Matt Hancock was doubly sure of the facts he had received from Public Health England.
Both he and Claudia Webbe should be scrutinising the government on such issues, not being their active cheerleaders.
The Leicester West MP, Liz Kendall, had not been as bad, at least showing some knowledge of the subject, but still letting the people of Leicester down in not opposing this local lockdown.
As for Sir Peter Soulsby, the Mayor of Leicester, it seemed that he initially spoke for many when he expressed his concerns about being kept in the dark by Public Health England and Matt Hancock. However, as Mayor, he must have known the real situation, and for some reason did not want to say so publicly.
He did, however, to cave in and accepted the Leicester lockdown.
He said he understood the need for firm action but is this lockdown the right sort of firm action to deal with the covid-19 issue Leicester has ? He cannot have been unaware of what was going on in his own City. He also said that “we will play our part in “keeping the City safe and healthy,” but will this be the case, when sweeping issues under the carpet is hardly going to achieve that?
The Conservative Leader of Leicester County Council Leader, Nicholas Rushton, could have made a stand, but he too fell in line with the government’s lockdown proposals. Another politician who it seems is happy to stand by and see Leicester suffer.
Matt Hancock said the local lockdown was “in the best interests of Leicester,” but that is highly questionable. It seems the Health Secretary knows best, yet he seems to be blissfully unconcerned about the horrendous problems this local lockdown will cause Leicester and its people.
It is his department which has had all the information, indeed for about two weeks now.
It seems that rather than meet a health issue head-on and solve it, he has decided to duck it purely because it is BAME related. The thought occurs that if some of this had been white British related, that he would have had no hesitation in saying this.
Therefore the City has been needlessly put into lockdown because the Health Secretary chooses to ignore the facts in order to pursue politically correct expediency. What was, and is, needed, is targeted straightforward medical measures, not a pointless broad spectrum lockdown.
Leicester has become the government’s local lockdown experimental guinea pig
Another point is that the government needed an experimental local lockdown guinea pig, and Leicester has complied obediently.
There will undoubtedly be many difficulties and indeed it will be a can of worms in reality.
The practicalities mean that it can never work, but it is set up in such a way that the government can argue it was a success or failure, whatever their political needs are at the time.
The main point is that it will enable the government to come of lockdown without it appearing that they have failed. That is something they will never admit and they would rather engage in this charade than do that.
It is all so disappointing.
The immense damage this local lockdown will cause
A total of 29 Leicester educational establishments will now not be open for pupils, except for the children of essential workers. Does that mean that education for all these children missing out is deemed non- essential?
Numerous businesses and shops will lose income, so will many individuals who have had no government financial support and they will become even more desperate. There will be numerous other social, medical and other problems. What a chaotic situation.
What is unacceptable about this lockdown decision is that the government and local politicians cannot now claim to be unaware of all the many downsides of imposing a lockdown. So they can be accused of knowingly imposing more misery on Leicester’s citizens.
The reality of Covid-19 in context
In the meantime, the Covid-19 virus will probably peter out, as many of these viruses do, or it will be defeated by straightforward simple medical measures, the obvious ones that all countries in the world agree with.
It is worth concluding that at the time of writing, there had been 510,576 covid-19 related deaths in the world, 3048 for that day.
On the same day there were:
117,457 deaths in the world
25,782 deaths from communicable diseases
3346 deaths from HIV/AIDS
16,368 deaths from cancer
1948 deaths from malaria
9928 deaths from smoking
4970 deaths from alcohol
2242 deaths from suicide
2684 deaths from road traffic accidents.
The UK had 155 Covid-19 related deaths on 30th June.
On average, there are approximately 1600 deaths from all causes in the UK.
There is likely to be a significant overlap between the Covid-19 deaths and those that would normally expect to die. This is because so many of the Covid-19 deaths are in the very vulnerable elderly category.
So it is important to get Covid-19 into perspective. We need to stop worrying about transmissions and be more focussed on protecting the vulnerable who are at risk of dying.
The healthy 20 to 40 old’s in Leicester referred to are at little risk of dying, even if they are black or Asian. They know it and so does everyone else. It is time to stop the world of pretence and make-belief weaved around the Covid-19 crisis
Let us look at those countries which have successfully dealt with Covid-19.
There is simply no need for lockdown, local or otherwise. But there is a need for the right medical measures.
This Leicester lockdown decision needs to be reversed as a matter of urgency.
It is actually the right thing to do!
And if there is a genuine desire to promote harmony within a very ethnically and culturally diverse community, then the last thing which should be done is to be perceived as covering up covid-19 information about the BAME communities. They did not ask for this, and they know, the same as everyone else in Leicester, that this issue must be responded to positively rather than ignored.
Many Leicester firms have vowed to ignore lockdown.
Finally, dozens of small and medium-sized manufacturers, mainly Asian, have vowed to ignore the government lockdown.
They maintain that they cannot afford to lose any more money.
They say it is up to them and their workers to decide on any risk they may be taking.
Although that approach may be annoying to a number of people, others will have great sympathy, as so many thousands of people of all ethnicities are suffering severe financial hardship because of lockdown.
The government has made it very clear that financial support will continue to reduce, so people feel they have no option but to work in order to survive.
The government could never afford a lockdown in the first place
The home truths are coming to bite the government, they could never afford to finance a lockdown in the first place, so should never have adopted a totally unproven policy.
Government and advisers out of touch with the suffering public
It is noticeable that a number of the scientists linked to the government have been making comments such the government came out of lockdown too early, or that more local lockdowns must be imposed.
These people have not had to suffer any loss of earnings and nor have the politicians or public servants. They simply do not live in, or understand, the real world.
Another fundamental point is that people, and not just the young ones, want their freedom back.
They, like many others, are simply not convinced by the government’s reasons for lockdown.
Why would they be when they have seen this policy fail.
The government will have to do what they should have done in the first place and that is to target resources using only evidence-based medical measures.
In order to convince them to do that, some people are going to have to stand up to them, and soon!