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Following PMQs the other day there was a second accountability rally held in the Chamber of the House of Commons and via video link. This time it was Health Secretary Mat Hancock coming under fire from opposition MPs frustrated by the minimal access to scrutinize the Tory Government’s shambolic handling of Covid 19 Pandemic crisis. Hancock stated rather unconvincingly his commitment to “critical scrutiny and debate as it was no thwart to our democracy.” Hypocritically he began with the latest statistics for Hospital deaths with no mention of the growing death toll in the community and our Care Homes! Hancock started into his pitch by boasting about what had been their first priority, to increase NHS capacity. Second on his agenda was recovering their seriously diminished stocks of PPE, a task which most feel the Government has continued fail miserably unable to keep pace with demand.
Hancock boasted that there were “3,000 spare Critical Care beds” even before including the Nightingale Hospital and he excitedly talked of more such facilities being constructed throughout the country with two new places mentioned for the first time Exeter and Sunderland. He insisted that the NHS had not at any point been overwhelmed, but he failed to consider the brutal fact that the supply chain for PPE kit had been totally inadequate, putting frontline workers at increased risk. He failed to mention that the staff of NHS Hospitals, that had already been understaffed before the crisis, were totally overwhelmed. Hancock also omitted the fact that many NHS staff were forced to self-isolate at home unable to determine if it was safe for them to return to work due to the inadequate and utterly pathetic lack of access to testing. Hancock calls all of that a raging success!
Hancock insisted that people should contact their Doctor about other health issues. On the controversial subject of kit he started in with the big ticket items where all the money was to be made, ventilators then there was the meds and belatedly that missing PPE, 58,000 pieces being supplied… Lord Dyson had been appointed to direct PPE procurement and, although they were actively involved with UK suppliers, he again cautioned on their credibility as if this well meaning cohort were the latest target for Tory demonization after daring to complain about being ignored. These companies had failed to understand that Tories are always going to reward their friends, the investors and companies who have fawned over them by contributed to their coffers in the past: it is not about quality control or credibility it’s Tory payback!
The third part the Government’s agenda was to scale up testing… well after bringing it to a juddering halt on the 12th of March! The availability of testing has increased, but while Hamcock felt that demand was lower than expected, this discrepancy had a lot more to do with rigid constraints on eligibility and access to unreasonably remote test sites. He talked up the new App like everyone would welcome extra surveillance. There forth priority was “best use of science and research;” that would presumably include the warped eugenics program of “Herd Immunity;” that was a real crowd pleaser! Now this was the exciting stuff, like being the first to create a vaccine, with 40 million for the Oxford and Imperial Research Labs and a big ad pitch British exceptionalism. Their fifth priority was for everyone to play their part in subservient obedience to relentless Tory messaging on Social Distancing… Tory mind control!
As we have reached the peak we will introduce contact tracing at large scale, presumably with that App, but what if you do not have a mobile? What would determine the end of lockdown? Hancock repeated the rather vague five tests set by the Tory party and designed to allow for plenty of wiggle room to whitewash over serious failures in their plan. “First that the NHS can continue to cope; second that the operational challenges have been met; third that the daily death rate falls sustainably and consistently forth that the rate of infection is decreasing and most importantly fifth that there is no risk of second peak.” The sixth part of our action plan was to protect through shielding the most vulnerable. This, after their arrogance and negligent idiocy has already killed off many of the most seriously vulnerable! Hancock ends by calling Coronavirus “a war where all humanity on same side;” a shallow sentiment considering the Tory Government’s priorities thus far.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth was then invited to make his statement and ask questions. He wanted us to find an appropriate way to remember all those who lost their lives, the NHS and Care staff who have died and requested a number for how many Care workers have died. Ashworth asked why the UK has the highest death rate compared to other European Countries like Germany? Will the Government undertake to publish the SAGE Minutes that are not being published and also publish the evidence as to why we are following a seven day rule for isolation that appears to contradict the WHO requirement for a fourteen day isolation period with no sign of infection? Ashworth elaborated that although the virus attacks the respiratory system it also attacks other cells with ACE2 receptors, so this is leading to cardiovascular failure and renal failure; could we convene clinical scientists so that we can share understanding amongst clinicians?
Ashworth also felt it was necessary to investigate the reason for the higher death rate in BME patients; an inquiry has been launched so would he keep us updated on this inquiry? Horrified by the deaths in Care Homes we had already been calling for a Social Care strategy. Ashcroft demanded of Hancock: “Can he insure that all death are recorded on daily basis; can he insure testing is available near Care Homes; that PPE supplies go to Social Care and just like the NHS, can the Care Sector will get whatever it takes!” With beds available why not allocate them for Social Care use and other non Covid patients? Ashworth reported that people were angry over the Tory rejection of the EU’s procurement plan; he wanted to what went on and when with access to documentation of emails sent? Testing is vital and contact tracing is labour intensive so he asked can we use volunteers? We heard that some NHS staff got unreliable pcr tests can he provide information on this? It was a lengthy laundry list of troubling questions that had consistently bothered the opposition for some time.
Hancock attempted to reply to the barrage of questions that had been percolating during the extended period of stymied policical scrutiny. United Social Care had informed him that 15 Care workers had died. He said it wasm’t so straightforward interpreting and comparing the scientifically relevant statistics between countries; there were many explanations why Germany is in a better state than us. Hancock’s lame excuses sounded like a “get out of jail free card!” In reality this Tory Government has proved incapable of learning any lessons from other countries. The 7 day rule was advised by SAGE “guided by the science…” on the British exceptionalism principal that our science is better than their science, so the WHO must be wrong. Expert clinical understanding is being sought and we will convene to investigate BME death rate and also why men are more impacted.
Care Home recorded deaths measure different things at different time. It wasn’t true that the death rate was 40% of the Hospital death rate figure, Hancock said it was more like 20%. He said testing in Care Homes would soon use mobile service. On PPE for Care workers, he said they had created a new service, but this was a massive logistical undertaking. With the spare capacity of 10,000 free beds, Hancock wants to reopen Hospitals to non Covid 19 patients, saying “we need to send a message to patient to come forward.” There were elements of the warning documented in “The Hammer and the Dance” article regarding collateral damage anong those who felt too scared to come to Hospital during the crisis. Hancock says having reached the peak with contact tracing in beta trials there will be mass contact tracing.
Jeremy Hunt, Chairman of the Health Select Committee, urged the Government to track and trace in a way that met WHO criteria. Hancock insisted that this is determined by the infection incidence in community in other words, their imprecise best guesstimate! This implied that, once again, the UK would ignore the WHO guidelines and reinvent the criteria for safely emerging from lockdown.
Philippa Whitford MP raised the issue of poorly paid Care workers and the need to recognize the contribution they have made and pay them a real living wage. The contact tracing and antibody test must be in place. She asked whether the issue of asymptomatic transmission was being taken into account? She also raised a point about the 20% cut in public health England funding. Mat Hancock was defensive about the living wage he claims that Carers are paid this already, which most people realize they are not! Asymptomatic transmission is a challenge overcome by test, track and trace he admits.
Typical of the genuine sentiments of public spirited Jeremy Corbyn he started with a heartfelt tribute to all of the regular folk who are pitching in to do their part in this crisis. Determined to hold to the current Tory Government to account, he began at the very beginning, the point where he had criticized our “part-time Prime Minister” after the PM was informed by the WHO of the epidemic in January and clearly warned of the dire need to “test, test, test;” Jeremy was emphatic, we didn’t do that! On the 24th of February and again in March, still nowhere near the required testing target; this defied explanation, but this revered Socialist icon was expecting one. The Health Secretary made the bogus claim that, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, testing was increasing at a pace! With the tone of yet another derogatory putdown, enabled by the success of their relentless smear campaign, Hancock refuted the”story told” by Corbyn implying that Jeremy was lying. The Health Secretary falsely boasted of having his “foot on the gas:” what utter crap!!!
Hillary Benn raised the issue of facial masks, that are part of the requirements in many countries. Regarding wearing of masks he asked, will they provide protection? If introduced as mandatory, how will this requirement be sourced and supported or must we all get our own masks? With a tone of incredulity Hancock balked at the suggestion of free masks, saying he could not promise that they will be giving everyone free masks due to the priority supply needs for health and care workers. His tone implied absolute derision that the Government might supply protective masks to poor people! The “Slaughter of the Sheeple” involves the conscious targeting of the most vulnerable sectors of our society so that they no longer present a financial burden to the ruling wealthy elite.
Lucy Powell said that only patients admitted to NHS Hospitals or discharged are being tested. We should be testing all patients and all care providers. Hancock replied that we are testing all Hospital leavers going back into Care Home; the Government stance regarding abdicating responsibility. Caroline Lucas our solitary Green Party MP questioned the contact tracing strategy worried about transparency data anonymity she wanted to see a community led process, saying “we should learn lessons and adopt a decentralized approach to contact tracing.” Hancock admitted that contact tracing required people as well as an App, saying we were giving up liberty with Social Distancing. He assured us that there would be more testing made available locally.
Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield ripped into a scathing attack of the Government’s shambolic record, so far behind Germany, “with deaths the equivalent of two jumbo jet crashes in a day! This is not a triumph!” He was angry that early NHS whistleblowers had been silenced and weren’t allowed to reveal the truth. Mat Hancock complained that the member who just spoke “misses the tone!” Do not dare to criticize the Tories? Our prime goal was to flatten the curve enabling us to treat everybody – despite the obvious retained underlying objective of Herd Immunity. Claiming Sheerman was completely wrong to suggest that Whistleblowers cannot raise an issue in public or in private, Hancock’s derisive response sounded like spoilt brat Donald Trump…
Patrick Grady talked of the long term Nursing shortage due to EU Nurses leaving the NHS. Mat Hancock was quick to cut him off by insisting there was no impact on our response to Coronavirus from the impending Tory crash-out Brexit: a blatant lie!
Maria Eagle brought up the atrocity of allowing potentially Covid 19 infected football fans to come flooding into Liverpool from a Madrid hotspot. She highlighted the higher than national average incidence of Covid 19 infections in Liverpool and asked for an admission that it was a mistake to go ahead with the game. Will the Government investigate? Eagle was in the chamber and this was the only time during the debate when I heard the distracting noise of grumbling in the background. Hancock tossed this one over to the scientists as if the Government was in no way responsible for making a deadly decision. This last point raised is very telling as it reflects the Government’s total abdication of responsibility when they made a blatantly obvious deadly mistake that cost lives.
I applauded the genuine, well deserved, criticism of the Government expressed by the Labour MP, Barry Sheerman, over the shambolic handling of the Covid 19 crisis when he compared the daily death toll to the equivalent of “two jumbo jet crashes in a day!” The true magnitude of the tragedy really hit home and we cannot let the enabling treatment that Hancock enjoyed throughout most of that questioning to continue in this way, because the situation will get a lot worse. These incidents of gross negligence can no longer be written off as simple errors of judgement because in many cases this Tory Government has knowingly taken a huge calculated risk. Collectively these deadly risks have snuffed out thousands of lives in a “Slaughter of the Sheeple” that will continue unabated unless we stand up to the userpers and vigerously fight back. We need to investigate the Covert 2019 Rigged Election as it may be the only way to get rid of this Tory Government ASAP.