I’ve gone from cross to angry over Government’s ever-growing Covid failings: Christa Ackroyd

If I were a teacher assessing the Government’s performance this week, once again it would be a fail from me with a note attached demanding ‘must do better’. If I was cross before, I am getting angry now.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs a Cabinet meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London. PA Photo. Picture: Jonathan Buckmaster/Daily Express/PA Wire

You may remember in last week’s column I told you of the stress of my daughter’s fight to get a test for my four and two-year-old granddaughters who had developed a continuous cough. They were quite poorly with it. So we did what we have all been told we must do. No questions asked.

We kept them off school, isolated them from friends and family and tried to get them tested. We ignored the suggestion by a computer booking system that they should be driven nine hours to Inverness, three hours to Leicester, or two hours to Liverpool.

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Eventually they were tested half an hour away, tests which fortunately in two days proved negative. Good news indeed.

So why am I so angry? Because when I wrote this very column last week I felt that, as so many thousands upon thousands had highlighted the same difficulties the Government would do something about it. Well they have. The solution it seems is to blame those of us doing what we were instructed to do in the first place – and get tested.

How unfortunate. Too many of us were following the advice they gave us, no, in fact the rules they insisted upon and rammed down our throats like the swabs they said would benefit us all.

It was our fault the system wasn’t coping. We were all trying too hard to do the right thing and as a result too many people were going for tests. Only now they are to be rationed to those who need them. Only we all need 
them in order for track and trace to work. But that’s not working either. Give me strength. It’s an utter shambles.

But it’s all going to be just fine because now schools will be sent their own testing kits. How many per school, and are they just for the teachers? In future will we send a they can be tested in the classroom after having mixed with their chums on the way in? Or shall we just do what many felt forced to do and present ourselves at the local A and E department?

The Government insisted keeping schools open was a priority. They say it still is. Yet within two weeks more than 700 are closed or partially closed. Thousands of children are being kept at home because they can’t get a test or the results quickly enough. And that means in many cases parents can’t go back to work.

So who pays for their time off? Who will pay their mortgage? And will they be made redundant as a result?

Why can’t doctors open their surgeries and take over testing? Mine appears to be partially closed. Why can’t companies that do medical tests for a living be urged to devote their energy to processing the results just as engineers were asked to make ventilators? Ventilators which we will need all over again if we don’t get a grip of the situation.

But it is not just testing, or even schools, which are in chaos this week. The ‘rule of six’ was meant to simplify matters. In fact it was up to all of us if we saw anyone breaking the new law to phone the police apparently. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, went further, suggesting it was our social responsibility to do so. She would shop her neighbours, she said.

Six months ago in this very column I was writing about community spirit and how people were relying on their neighbours to survive. How the one good thing to come out of this was getting to know those we lived amongst when our busy lives were shut down and we were forced to turn to each other for help.

Now we were being asked by the woman in charge of the police to peer from behind the net curtains and snitch on them if we suspect they are breaking the law.

No wonder the police were appalled. It was like declaring open season for anyone with a grudge about the size of their neighbour’s hedge to pick up the phone and ring.

I know we are in the midst of a pandemic unprecedented in living memory, but is this the kind of behaviour our leaders want us to adopt?

Not only that but how would anyone know who was a carer, or who was in someone’s bubble? And what about the fact that in some areas the rule for those in special measures is one household, whereas elsewhere it is six from different households. Thank goodness that was all cleared up quickly. Not. Within 24 hours our Prime Minister, the Home Secretary’s boss, said we shouldn’t, getting his camels and his dromedaries confused in his analogy.

He is not the only one confused. And not because we are stupid. No wonder we don’t know what’s going on when we hear of a 10pm curfew in some areas of the North East while an hour or so down the road in Leeds, which is on the watch list, sees students partying and spilling out onto the streets without a care in the world. What is to stop students from Newcastle, where everything closes at 10pm, from hopping on a train and travelling somewhere where it doesn’t? Oh and if we wanted to celebrate Christmas let’s all go to Scotland where the kids are not counted.

It is time for the Government’s scattergun approach to stop. Until then, small wonder that 77 per cent of the population says their mental health is suffering.

I’ll leave you with the conclusion I came to last week. The situation needs sorting. And sorting now.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson