Dear Thangam Debbonaire,
I am writing to you to express my frustration with the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and to request that you do everything within your power to hold them to account, particularly in regard to minimising infections by following scientific advice, and following all established protocols regarding awarding contracts paid for from public funds.
The people of the UK have given the government almost 7 months of their lives, since initial restrictions were brought into force on 16th March 2020. Since that date I, and many others, have left our houses only to exercise or buy essential supplies. I have not hugged any person outside of my household since that date, including my own sister, nor have I seen my nephew since January (and it now looks likely that it will be at least a full year until I can see him in person again).
Whilst some restrictions have been eased in recent months, it does not appear that the majority of these changes are based in scientific study to reduce infection rates, but rather were aimed at increasing economic activity with arbitrary conditions being set (why 6 and not 7? why the same indoor and out regardless of the fact that there is very little data to support outdoor transmission? why can strangers congregate in a pub but family members can’t meet in a house?).
I, like many others, have opted to continue to follow the science by restricting my interactions with others to be exclusively outdoors (which is becoming tougher as the weather conditions deteriorate going into Autumn and Winter) or online. I continue to social distance, to wash my hands, to wear a mask in any indoor space other than my own home. I no longer go to the gym, attend dance classes, practise circus skills with friends, or participate in the weekly parkrun (as either a runner/walker or volunteer). My social interactions are limited to a weekly outdoor hot drink with running friends (no more than 6 around a table), and an online group chat of my weekly juggling group (who are now homeless as our venue has been sold for housing).
I appreciate that I am in a luckier position than most, being retired and able to work from home in the creative arts, the pandemic has not hit me financially, and I maintain a roof over my head. But the strain of such a restricted existence is ongoing and amplified by the government’s mishandling of the pandemic.
I have watched whilst unelected advisors flout the rules and receive no reprimand. I have seen billions of pounds in contracts for PPE awarded to shell companies set up by Tory donors, and that PPE to be found not fit for use. I have watched other countries set-up effective test and trace services whilst yet more public money is handed out to consultants and for apps that do not work.
The increase in cases following the return of children to schools and students to universities was entirely predictable, the science has already shown that children can and do transmit the virus and that indoor spaces (particularly with poor ventilation, as most educational establishments are due to their age) are perfect locations for transmission. However, it appears to have taken the head of the NHS Test and Trace programme entirely by surprise. Perhaps if the government had appointed someone with a scientific background rather than a Jockey Club board member who presided over a large data breach in a previous position, things would be different.
The government has taken hundreds of millions of months of people’s lives, as well as costing lives through the late initial lockdown, causing unnecessary suffering to those who have lost loved ones and those whose medical treatment has been effectively suspended since March (with no light on the horizon as to when those treatments such as hip replacements, cataract surgery, breast reductions/enlargements/reconstructions, dental work, etc. might resume).
I, and many others like me, will continue to restrict our lives to try and restrict the spread of this virus, to try and reduce the infection rate and save lives (both from the immediate threat of severe illness and long-term consequences). We will do this not because the government tells us to, or because they tell us not to (they have lost the trust of the people through their arbitrary rules and consequence-free flouting of them), but because the science indicates that it is necessary.
If the government had followed what other countries have done since March: restricting arrivals into the country, introducing testing and quarantine for arrivals into the country, increasing testing levels to those necessary to accurately assess the level of infections and to guide targeted local restrictions, establishing an effective tracing system, recording contact data for all individuals using indoor spaces, mandating masks in all indoor spaces (including schools) for those not medically exempt, the current crisis where we are at the same level of hospitalisations as seen in March could have been avoided.
We cannot change the past, but I ask you as my Member of Parliament to hold the government’s feet to the fire over their failures over the past 7 months. I ask that you demand that contracts (particularly those not open to tender) are published within the government’s own deadline of 30 days, to expose the corruption of those contracts being awarded to unqualified Tory donors. I am aware that the government’s large majority makes it difficult to oppose them on legislation, but ask that you continue to use your platform as a voice for your constituents to raise awareness of their failings and corruption (which is often mostly missing from mainstream media), and to actively vote against damaging legislation rather than abstain.