Plan B virus dithering will cost lives – Jayne Dowle

JACOB Rees-Mogg makes the fact that most Conservative MPs have ditched wearing face-masks during debates sound like a particularly good lunch.

Boris Johnson addresses the House of Commons where Tory MPs are still reluctant to wear face masks. Why?

All 360-odd of them are exempt, says the House of Commons leader, because of the party’s “convivial, fraternal spirit” and they all know each other.

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This is the kind of bonkers Westminster attitude that prevails as new cases of coronavirus reach more than 50,000 a day and official sources say that the equivalent of two pupils in every secondary school class had Covid last week.

Handout photo issued by UK Parliament of (left to right) Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak in the chamber of the House of Commons, Westminster.

I’d concur; here in Barnsley, every other day it seems we hear of someone my Year 11 daughter knows going off sick with symptoms or undertaking a PCR test.

So much for the Government’s previous assertion that the virus did not particularly affect children and young people. We are now vaccinating over-12s.

It’s just another example of the curious and concerning volte-face taking place as we approach winter, with the British Medical Association and the NHS calling for the government to bring in basic preventative measures such as mandatory face coverings in public places and the use of vaccine passports to enter crowded venues.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a service to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh. but should face masks be mandatory at all inside settings?

The rest of the world is certainly noticing. I have friends who have taken their teenagers on a half-term break to Morocco. Before they booked, they weighed up the pros and cons, read up on all the advice and made an informed decision. This was hardly a reckless act; they’re a business executive and a pensions lawyer in their mid-50s.

At this rate, they might be there until Christmas, missing work, schooling and university, as the Moroccan government, mindful of rising cases in the UK, has decided to suspend all UK flights.

Yet all ministers, I’m noticing, seem to have undergone a new kind of Covid-era media training which requires employing hushed, non-confrontational tones in an attempt to play down any kind of probing question.

The overall impression is that there is nothing to worry about. Clearly there is. And what is making the situation worse is the collective ministerial refusal to tackle it.

Yet again, I’m forced to regard the Cabinet much in the way that a frustrated psychiatrist would approach a patient in deep denial; until a problem is acknowledged, it cannot be dealt with.

I fear that some kind of memo or WhatsApp message has gone out saying that any mention of so-called Plan B – which might include restrictions on movement, working from home and the return of tighter rules regarding facemasks and indoor mingling – would be construed as a sign of weakness.

If this is the case, then we might as well forget Plan B and go straight to Plan C, because while ever they dither and dally, cases are rising and people are dying.

It beggars belief that this reluctance to act decisively comes only a week or so after the official government report was released stating that the slow decisions in the early weeks of the pandemic “ranked as one of the most important public health failures” the UK has ever experienced.

I’m sorry to remind you, but I haven’t forgotten Boris Johnson’s main advice back then was to wash our hands to the tune of Happy Birthday.

I totally understand that we need to move forward, but I’m afraid that the country is confused and running to its own rules.

On a recent visit to a West End show, we had to present proof of double vaccination or a recent negative Covid test. At our local cinema the other evening, we strolled in without so much as a question. Are ministers so completely pre-occupied with “back to business” that they are afraid to make a series of tough decisions?

Or dare they not admit that perhaps they were wrong to 
ease so many restrictions so early?

And, importantly, are they loathe to acknowledge the fact that, despite Boris Johnson blathering on about people needing to take up their booster jab, there are still millions of vaccine refuseniks?

What impact is this having on infection rates? So many questions need answering, and time is clearly running out.

Back in January, the Government’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance told MPs: “The lesson is to go earlier than you think you want to, a bit harder than you think you want to and broader – waiting and watching simply doesn’t work.”

To this end, I have a final question; whatever happened to following the science Prime Minister?

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