Boris is back!
And everything’s going to be great!
That was the emphatic message sent to the country today as the Prime Minister returned to the daily UK government coronavirus press briefing after weeks of absence while he battled the deadly disease himself.
He was breathless, I assume from residual side-effects of the virus.
But it could also have been from excitement at being able to deliver so much tremendously positive news.
Boris Johnson takes part during the ‘Clap for our Carers’ campaign in support of Britain’s NHS in front of 10 Downing Street in central London on Thursday evening
BOOM! We’re over the peak of coronavirus and on the ‘downward slope’!
BOOM! The first stage of our battle with COVID-19 has been a triumph because we’ve ‘succeeded to avoid the tragedy that engulfed other parts of the world’ and 500,000 people didn’t die!
BOOM! The disintegrating economy’s going to ‘bounce back strongly’!
BOOM! There will be a ‘comprehensive roadmap’ released next week to show how we’ll be coming out of lockdown!
Going full Julie Andrews, Boris assured us that though it’s been like coming through ‘some huge alpine tunnel’, we’ll soon be seeing sunlight and pastures again!
Oh, and he wanted us to know ‘we are throwing everything at it, heart and soul, night and day’!
Wow, this all sounded fantastic.
It also sounded like complete and utter bullsh*t.
Boris Johnson gave heartfelt thanks to the NHS and urged Britons to ‘keep going’ with lockdown tonight as he headed his first Downing Street briefing since falling ill
A few weeks ago, I compared President Trump to Comical Ali, Saddam Hussein’s ludicrous ‘Information Minister’ during the Iraq War who boasted that American ‘infidels’ were killing themselves ‘in their hundreds’ at the gates of Baghdad – as TV viewers could hear US weaponry loudly destroying Iraqi forces in the background.
I didn’t think it would be possible for any world leader in this crisis to sound more delusional than Trump, whose antics at his own daily briefings have become an unedifying masterclass in how not to handle a pandemic.
But Boris managed to make Trump seem almost credible, and his sycophantic loyalists on social media lapped it up.
‘That’s our guy!’ they drooled as Boris informed us in no uncertain terms that we’re going to get this virus done, just as he got Brexit done.
But the virus isn’t like Brexit.
It’s not a political ideology that can be open to debate, or an argument that can be won with buffoonery, bluster and Churchillian soundbites.
PIERS MORGAN: None of Boris Johnson’s political skills that won him the Referendum and December’s election are working like they did before the virus struck
COVID-19 doesn’t even know who Boris Johnson is, let alone care for his love of Cicero, ability to speak fluent Latin, prodigiously enthralling private life, or distrust of the European Union.
When Boris fans, the vast majority of them with union jack flags and Brexit slogans in their profiles, scream abuse at me all day long on Twitter for challenging their hero’s coronavirus strategy, they do so because to them, any criticism of the government over this crisis is a re-run of the viciously toxic and partisan Brexit campaign.
(Ironically, they all loved me when I demanded the result of the Referendum be honoured, despite myself voting Remain)
But Brexit has never seemed more utterly irrelevant to this war, not least because EU member states ran for their own individual self-serving hills the moment it began.
And none of Boris Johnson’s political skills that won him the Referendum and December’s election are working like they did before the virus struck.
The reason for this lay in one simple chart that appeared on screen after he finished speaking.
Entitled ‘Global Death Comparision’, it showed that the UK is now trending to be the second worst country in the world for coronavirus deaths.
This follows yesterday’s massive spike in our official death toll following the government’s shamefully belated inclusion of deaths outside hospital in care homes and community.
The reported number of UK fatalities is now 26,711.
The latest slides from the government revealed the global death comparison
But Financial Times journalists have crunched all the available Office of National Statistics data and estimate the real total including all ‘excess deaths’ is now over 48,000.
Whatever the exact number is, it’s a staggering and horrifying one.
It means a football stadium full of people has died already in this country, and people are still dying in their hundreds every day.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific officer, is on record as saying that a final death toll of 20,000 would have been a ‘good result’.
So, we’re now into bad result territory, and it’s clearly going to be a very, very bad result indeed.
The big question is why?
And the increasingly obvious answer is because the UK’s whole strategy to fight this virus has been a fiasco from start to finish.
We were scandalously slow and complacent in our response to its outbreak.
We were scandalously under-prepared for it, particularly when it came to stock-piling Personal Protection Equipment for health workers and securing enough coronavirus tests as soon as the severity of the crisis became clear.
We were scandalously late to order a lockdown.
We were scandalously complicit in sending infected elderly hospital patients back to care homes without testing them.
And we’ve been scandalously inconsistent in performing policy U-turn after policy U-turn.
As I watched the briefing today, I saw a Prime Minister who knows all this but is desperately trying to avoid any blame or accountability.
‘I had wonderful care!’ he declared, which is great – if you’re him.
But what about the dreadful lack of care he has shown to the oldest and most vulnerable members of our society?
Thanks to the disgraceful failure to test patients before sending them back to the homes, the country’s 11,000 care homes have become horrible hotbeds of infection and death both for the residents and care workers.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this week that care homes had always been a ‘priority’ from the start of this crisis.
But this is a demonstrable, as care home chiefs have raced to attest.
A handful of ministers and officials attended Cabinet in person today, while others joined by video conferencing
As late as mid-March, the government advice was still that there was little risk of anyone in a care home being infected, which explains why they were so lax with PPE or testing for care homes.
Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, batted away questions about our death toll by saying we should wait until it’s all over before being so judgmental. ‘Let’s not go charging in on who’s won and lost,’ he said, ‘this epidemic has a long way to go.’
Yet Boris Johnson had literally just said we’re ‘over the peak’.
Which one is it, Professor?
And given the government’s every move has apparently been ‘guided by the science’; forgive us if we don’t insist on asking rather difficult questions right now of the scientific decisions that have led us to have such a disastrous death toll.
Especially when ‘the science’ has changed so radically, so often.
We pursued a policy of ‘herd immunity’, as confirmed by Sir Patrick Vallance, for many weeks until our ‘experts’ suddenly realised it was a total disaster that would kill 500,000 people.
We didn’t lockdown for several weeks after most countries, because the ‘experts’ said we didn’t need to and encouraged mass gatherings at events like the Cheltenham Festival and big football matches featuring visiting fans from other places like Madrid that were, incredibly, IN LOCKDOWN THEMSELVES.
Then we U-turned on that too, and now we can’t even start to come out a lockdown because so many have died from the virus.
The same ‘experts’ told us on March 13 we would no longer be doing testing outside of serious hospital cases.
Then we did a U-turn on that and made mass testing a top priority – and have had to play catch-up ever since. Yet the World Health Organisation’s advice for months has been ‘TEST, TEST, TEST’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds, pictured together on March 9, before the UK went into lockdown
And unlike 90% of the world, we’ve refused to impose any stringent checking or quarantine measures at our airports, because ‘the science’ said we didn’t need to, but are now apparently planning to finally do it.
Today came yet another U-turn: for weeks, we’ve been assured by the ‘experts’ there’s no need to wear face-masks. Indeed, Matt Hancock said just 48 hours ago that the evidence for the need to wear them was ‘weak.’
Now Boris Johnson has said we’re most likely going to be asked to wear them, for ‘epidemiological’ reasons. So, the science changed on that too.
All of which beggars the question: why the hell should we continue to trust these dithering ‘experts’ and their ‘science’?
Or our Prime Minister who seems to rely on them so blindly?
I don’t say this lightly, but because these ‘experts’ have guided us in a very different way to those of almost every other country in the world and the consequences have been disastrous and undoubtedly cost many lives.
And because they are still guiding all our decision-making now.
Boris Johnson wants us to think he’s handled this crisis as well as could be expected.
But he hasn’t.
The WHO declared COVID-10 a ‘public health emergency’ on January 30, but Boris was too distracted by ‘getting Brexit done’ the next day to pay any proper attention.
He then spent much of February off work with his girlfriend Carrie, sorting out his divorce, and preparing to announce her pregnancy and their engagement.
In doing so, he missed the first five COBRA meetings about coronavirus, and after he finally did host one on March 2, he boasted to us all that he’d been to a hospital with coronavirus patients inside it and ‘shaken as many hands as possible.’ This was four days after Italy recorded its 79th death and most of Northern Italy was in lockdown.
Unsurprisingly, Boris went onto catch the virus and nearly died, taking him out of the war for another few weeks.
He was only saved by the brilliance of the NHS staff, of whom over a hundred have now died on the frontline because they haven’t been properly protected by the man they saved.
‘I had wonderful care’,’ he said today.
And that’s great – for him.
But the cold hard truth is that Boris Johnson didn’t care enough about this virus when it really mattered, and that has made Britain one of the world’s worst coronavirus death-traps.
For him to now claim some kind of success is a woeful delusion.
The stats don’t lie, especially when the stats are corpses.