Spartacus Blog

The Covid-19 Pandemic: An Outline for a Public Inquiry

John Simkin

Public opinion polls show that all over the world, governments in the early months of the pandemic enjoyed an increase in their popularity. This happened in the UK with Boris Johnson. In April 2020 Johnson had an approval rating of 66% (it had only been 42% in January 2020). The reason for this that in a crisis people want to believe that their government can protect them. For example, Neville Chamberlain was prime minister on the outbreak of the Second World War. Although the war was the result of his failed foreign policy, public opinion polls in September 1939 showed that Chamberlain's popularity was 55 per cent. By December it had increased to 68 per cent. When it became clear in the early months of 1940 that he was not up to the job, his approval rating declined dramatically and he was forced to resign in May 1940. (1)

By December 2020, Boris Johnson's approval rating had fallen to 37%. (2) Leaders in those countries that have dealt well with the pandemic maintained their good approval ratings. For example, in Germany, Angela Merkel's "approval ratings… skyrocketed during the pandemic". Public Opinion polls published in November 2020, showed that 72% of Germans were either satisfied or very satisfied with her performance.  "As Angela Merkel enters the home stretch of her nearly 15-year tenure, more people express confidence in the German chancellor than in any other world leader asked about in a recent Pew Research Center survey of 14 countries. And in six of those countries, the share of adults who have confidence in Merkel is the highest on record." (3)

Recent polling suggests that people in the UK are very unhappy with Boris Johnson's performance during the pandemic. The Observer reported on Sunday (10 January 2021): "More people think Boris Johnson should resign as prime minister than think he should continue in office, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer . The first poll of 2021 found that 43% thought he should resign, while 40% said that he should remain as leader." (4)

I will attempt to explain why Boris Johnson has done such a bad job dealing with the pandemic. Of course, Johnson always argues that it easy to criticise when using hindsight. While this is true of Keir Starmer, who has usually left it very late to criticise the government (I have not been very impressed with his performance either). It is not true of all his critics. On 17th March 2020, I published an article explaining why the UK would end up with the worst Covid-19 death-rate in Europe. This was based on government decisions that took place between 2010-2019. (5). In May I returned to the subject, and published the article, Why so many people in the UK have died of Covid-19, that was mainly about Johnson's early mistakes during the pandemic. (6)

Nor is the accusation of hindsight true of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, an unofficial group of scientists who provides advice to the UK on Covid-19, that was formed in April 2020. You have to remember that at the beginning of the crisis the official Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) was a highly secret organization, and the public was not even allowed to know the names of its members. When the SAGE minutes were eventually published it became clear that Johnson had been very selective in the "scientific advice" he had been taking. Independent SAGE has published what its members have been saying at its meetings online straight away and so we can check what they said and when they said it. (7)

(1) Austerity and the NHS

Following an outbreak of Swine Flu in 2009, the government established the UK's national pandemic stockpile. At this time a pandemic was seen as the number one threat on the national risk register. Half a billion pounds was spent on hundreds of millions of items to protect health workers in the case of an outbreak. This was a time when pandemic preparedness was identified as a national priority for the NHS. (8)

The Conservative-led coalition government was established in May 2010. An investigation by The Guardian discovered that an "analysis of official financial data suggests £325m was wiped off the value of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) emergency stockpile, reducing it from £831m in 2013 to £506m by March last year (2019)… The findings are likely to renew questions about whether government stockpiles held sufficient quantities of personal protective equipment (PPE) before the Covid-19 pandemic and whether emergency preparations were affected by almost a decade of cuts and reduced public investment." (9)

In another investigation Channel 4 found: "A Consumable Procurement Specification List from 2009 stipulated what should be stored as part of a £500 million stockpile. It recommended 28.1 million respirators, 190 million surgical masks, and 116.5 million combined needles and syringes. However, by 30 January 2020 the stockpile held 10% fewer respirators – at 26.3 million. There were also 19% fewer surgical masks at 154.5 million, and 28% fewer combined needles and syringes at 84.2 million." (10)

Michael Marmot, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London, has pointed out: "The central dogma of governments from 2010 was putting the public finances in order- austerity by another name. The state was rolled back in a regressive way. To the extent that health was seen as important, there was partial protection for NHS funding and some action on obesity. The social determinants of health did not feature in government priorities." Marmot went on to argue that "the levels of social, environmental, and economic inequality in society are damaging our health and wellbeing." (11)

(2) Privatization of NHS

Public Health England and NHS Supply Chain's management company, Supply Chain Coordination Limited, was put in charge of stockpiling personal protective equipment (PPE). To reduce the costs of PPE, the UK began purchasing it from abroad, especially China. British companies, unable to compete with the prices being charged, either concentrated on producing other products or closed down completely. This was combined with the government's decision to cut billions of NHS funding. Cuts make people think that maybe our publicly owned NHS isn't working, so the private sector starts to look like a solution. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out: "That's the standard technique of privatisation: defund, make sure things don't work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital." (12)

Movianto, a subsidiary of the US health company Owens & Minor, won the £55m deal in the summer of 2018 for "stockpiling" PPE. On 6 th April 2020, Movianto, was sold for $133m (£107m) to French company EHDH Holding Group. Matt Hancock lost confidence in Movianto and brought it back under government control on 11th April.  Hancock announced a new "24/7 military operation" to oversee the supply of PPE to health and care workers. He added: "We've had to create a whole new logistics network, essentially from scratch." That is the problem when you outsource something that should be done by the state. This will be a common theme as we go through the mistakes made by the government. (13) 

(3) Underspending on Health Care

The latest available figures from the Office for National Statistics show the UK spent £2,989 per person on healthcare, which was around the median for members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: OECD (£2,913 per person). However, of the G7 group of large, developed economies, UK healthcare spending per person was the second-lowest, with the highest spenders being France (£3,737), Germany (£4,432) and the United States (£7,736). The United States figure is fairly irrelevant because the vast majority of it is private spending and it pays for health-care that is not available to all its citizens. As a percentage of GDP, UK healthcare spending fell from 9.8% in 2013 to 9.6% in 2017, while healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP rose for four of the remaining six G7 countries. (14)

(4) Exercise Cygnus

All modern countries run pandemic exercises every few years. In most countries they take these pandemic exercises very seriously and follow the recommendations of the scientists who write the report on what has taken place. In October 2016, the UK government ran a national pandemic flu exercise, codenamed Exercise Cygnus. The report of its findings was not made publicly available, but the then chief medical officer Sally Davies commented on what she had learnt from it at a conference in December 2016. "We've just had in the UK a three-day exercise on flu, on a pandemic that killed a lot of people," she told the World Innovation Summit for Health. "It became clear that we could not cope with the excess bodies," Davies said. One conclusion was that Britain, as Davies put it, faced the threat of "inadequate ventilation" in a future pandemic. She was of course referring to the fact that compared to other advanced nations, the UK was desperately short of ventilation machines. Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, decided to classify the report because the government was not willing to release the money needed to pay for the report's recommendations. Sally Davies resigned in disgust and gave up her £215,000 salary and took up an academic post at Trinity College, Cambridge. Her replacement, Chris Whitty, was someone who is unprincipled enough to pretend he agrees with the decisions of Boris Johnson during this pandemic. (15)

(5) Germany and Pandemics

Germany is a good example of how a modern country should plan for a possible pandemic. Germany's view has always been that it is sensible to fund a health service in a way that you have spare capacity in the system. You can then deal with unusual events like an outbreak of a new disease. This of course means having a lot of beds and expensive equipment not being used.  Germany has 29.2 critical beds per 100,000 population compared to the UK's 6.6.  (16) Unsurprisingly, it is the UK that has posted the highest excess deaths since the war. In the first wave of Covid-19 German deaths peaked at 2.78 per million people, compared with 13.88 in the UK. During this period Germany had barely any excess deaths. (17)

At the end of one of Germany's pandemic exercises, it was suggested the country should develop a National Trace and Test system. This project was based at Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Berlin. The system was up and running and therefore was able to take appropriate action as soon as news arrived of this new virus from China in December 2019. (18)

Countries with the most critical care beds per capita
Countries with the most critical care beds per capita

On 16th January 2020, before the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that the Covid-19 virus could be transmitted from one human to another, German scientists had created a test that proved to be the first reliable means of detecting the virus. That test was then rapidly produced and adopted by WHO. Over the next few weeks between 200 and 300 German laboratories had become involved in the rapid testing scheme. The President of the Robert Koch Institute announced on 20th March that domestic laboratories were able to conduct as many as 160,000 tests per week. By early April this had reached 500,000 tests per week, with the ultimate goal of 200,000 tests per day.  (19)

Germany is democratically, culturally and climatically similar to the UK. It has a larger population than the UK (83.02m v 66.65m), and we have the advantage of island status to better control our borders from viral invasion. As Dr Phil Hammond has pointed out, the leaders of the two countries took very different approaches: "Crucially, it (Germany) took the pandemic seriously from the outset. Angela Merkel (scientist) declared it the country's greatest threat since the Second World War, while Boris Johnson (optimist) was shaking hands in hospital and encouraging people to carry on as normal." (20)

(6) Doctors and Nurses

It soon became clear that the pandemic would cause tremendous pressures on hospital staff. The early evidence was that not only would staff catch Covid-19, they would also become exhausted and might have to take time off from work. This indicated a major problem for the UK as on 14 th February 2020 it was reported that the NHS had 106,000 vacancies, including over 44,000 in nursing. This was a problem caused by the underfunding of the NHS and the low pay of nursing staff. It was made far worse by the decision by the government in 2017 to bring an end to nursing bursaries. Up until this time students studying nursing in England received a bursary and paid no fees. The plan apparently was to import foreign nurses whose training had been paid for by their, often extremely poor countries. (21)

(7) Critical-Care Beds

The main reason for the high death rate in Italy in February 2020 was a lack of critical-care beds where patients could be put on ventilators (breathing machines that help keep your lungs working). In research published in February 2020, Italy was ranked in 10th place out of 31 EU countries for critical-care beds with ventilators. The UK, with a figure of 6.6 critical beds per 100,000 population, was ranked 24 out of 31. In world terms we are well below other wealthy countries and just above China and India. (22)

Critical Care Beds in Europe
Critical Care Beds in Europe

As early as 2011 a report warned the government about the shortage of ventilators: "Critical care services… are likely to see increases in demand during even a mild influenza pandemic. In a moderate or severe influenza pandemic demand may outstrip supply, even when capacity is maximised… it may become necessary to make decisions concerning priority of access to some services."  It was not until 14th March 2020, that Matthew Hancock, the Health Secretary, admitted that the country was desperately short of ventilators. He told British manufacturers, "If you produce a ventilator, we will buy it. No number (you produce) is too high." (23)

(8) Hospital Beds

Italy not only had a problem with a lack of critical-care beds, in its most affected regions it ran out of all hospital beds.  European comparisons indicated another problem for the UK as we were ranked 29 out of 31 for available hospital beds. (24) The government tried to deal with the problem by building Nightingale hospitals. However, most of them have never been open for patients because it has not got the nurses and doctors to staff them.  (25)

(9) Early Warnings Ignored

Despite the warnings from his scientific advisors, Boris Johnson was slow to realize the dangers of Covid-19. On 3rd March 2020, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) told the government that they should "advise against greetings such as shaking hands and hugging, given existing evidence about the importance of hand hygiene". Later that day, Johnson told a press conference that he was continuing to shake hands with people. "I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands," he said. "People obviously can make up their own minds but I think the scientific evidence is … our judgment is that washing your hands is the crucial thing." (26)

Tomas Pueyo is one of the foremost experts on pandemics. He wrote on the 13th March 2020: "The coronavirus is coming to you. It's coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly. It's a matter of days. Maybe a week or two. When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed. Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways. Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die. They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies. The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today. That means keeping as many people home as possible, starting now." (27)

Covid-19 Lag Tracker
Covid-19 Lag Tracker

There were several experts in the UK who were aware that Boris Johnson was failing to make the right decisions in response to covid-19. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of Britain's leading medical journal The Lancet, warned that we risk sleepwalking into a hurricane as officials delay their response to an escalating crisis. He said Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson "claim they are following the science, but that is not true. The evidence is clear. We need urgent implementation of social distancing and closure policies. The government is playing roulette with the public. This is a major error." (28)

The medical journalist, Jack Peat, added on 11th March: "There is no justification for half-hearted measures. The Government and the mayor keep saying they are simply following ‘scientific advice'. But the scientists are clear that this is now a political decision – on whether the Government are prepared to spend very serious sums of money, and take a large economic hit, to maximise protection of the population." (29)

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance admitted that he advised a lockdown at this time, but this was rejected by Boris Johnson and other senior figures such as chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill. In an email obtained by the BBC, Vallance said he "argued stronger than anyone for action for lockdown". However, when this proposal was rejected, he decided not to resign. (30)

Max Hastings, his former employer, warned us in June 2019, that once he became PM he would be hopeless in a crisis because of the flaws in his character. This gives us insight into why Johnson refused to announce an early lockdown: "He (Johnson) is unfit for national office, because it seems he cares for no interest save his own fame and gratification… His premiership will almost certainly reveal a contempt for rules, precedent, order and stability…. Dignity still matters in public office, and Johnson will never have it. Yet his graver vice is cowardice, reflected in a willingness to tell any audience, whatever he thinks most likely to please, heedless of the inevitability of its contradiction an hour later." (31)

(10) Sporting Events

Whereas other European competition football games were played behind closed doors because of their government's actions, Boris Johnson thought it would be a good idea that 3,000 Atletico Madrid fans should arrive to watch the game at Anfield on Wednesday night (11th March). This is at a time when Madrid is in a state of effective lockdown after a major outbreak of the virus. One Liverpool fan who deliberately didn't go to Anfield was Professor John Ashton, a former director of public health from the city. He instead appeared on BBC Newsnight to criticise the lack of action taken by the government: "I'm tearing my hair out with this. I'm very frustrated here, we've got a complacent attitude, it feels wooden and academic and we've wasted a month when we should have been engaging with the public. If this now spreads the way we think it will, there will not be enough hospital beds and people will have to be nursed at home. We should have got a grip on this a month ago. I want to know why we haven't tested those people who have come back from Italy and who are now amongst us - we've got a recipe for community spread here." (32)

The Independent SAGE group was highly critical of the government's approach to air travel: "The initial stages of this pandemic were driven by international travel and, since then, travel has continued to introduce the Covid-19 virus, including new variants, to new locations and increased level of infections in places where there is already virus circulating. Air travel, in particular, has been implicated directly in outbreaks, including to the islands of Britain and Ireland. Incoming travellers carrying the infection, whether returning UK and Irish citizens or citizens of another country, may pose a particular risk when levels of the circulating virus are low. It therefore follows that putting in place restrictions during the period that action is being taken to reduce the virus circulating will assist both in the reduction of the current level and help prevent it rising again after it has been brought under control." (33)

(11) Herd Immunity

The idea of people being allowed into the country from Covid-19 hot-spots began to make sense when government sources began briefing journalists that the UK should adopt the idea of "herd Immunity". This possible solution first appeared in an article by Robert Peston in The Spectator where he explained the government's strategy: "The key phrase we all need to understand is 'herd immunity' – which is what happens to a group of people or animals when they develop sufficient antibodies to be resistant to a disease. The strategy of the British government in minimising the impact of Covid-19 is to allow the virus to pass through the entire population so that we acquire herd immunity, but at a much delayed speed so that those who suffer the most acute symptoms are able to receive the medical support they need, and such that the health service is not overwhelmed and crushed by the sheer number of cases it has to treat at any one time." (34)

The following day, Graham Medley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a member of the government Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) told BBC Newsnight, "We're going to have to generate herd immunity…the only way of developing that in the absence of a vaccine is for the majority of the population to become infected."  (35)

On 15th March, 2020, the UK's Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said a degree of herd immunity will help the UK population as Covid-19 spreads. Vallance said the aim would be to "reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission". This view was supported by the UK's chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty. (36)

The World Health Organisation quickly cast doubt on the UK’s approach to developing "herd immunity" against Covid-19. Spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris said scientists do not know enough about the virus to say whether "theories" around people becoming immune to it are correct.  (37) Dr William Hanage was especially critical of the government's approach: "When I first heard about this, I could not believe it. I research and teach the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease at Harvard's Chan School of Public Health. My colleagues here in the US, even as they are reeling from the stumbling response of the Donald Trump administration to the crisis, assumed that reports of the UK policy were satire - an example of the wry humour for which the country is famed. But they are all too real." He goes on to argue: "We talk about vaccines generating herd immunity, so why is this different? Because this is not a vaccine. This is an actual pandemic that will make a very large number of people sick, and some of them will die. Even though the mortality rate is likely quite low, a small fraction of a very large number is still a large number. And the mortality rate will climb when the NHS is overwhelmed. This would be expected to happen, even if we make the generous assumption that the government were entirely successful in restricting the virus to the low-risk population, at the peak of the outbreak the numbers requiring critical care would be greater than the number of beds available." Of course, the government soon abandoned "herd immunity" and even tried denying that they had ever meant to suggest it. (38)

As Michael Rosen pointed out: "The extraordinary fact is that this idea of ‘herd immunity' without vaccination is lousy biology. No one knew then how long or short nor how strong or weak the body's immune response would be to this virus. No one knew how often it would mutate nor how different the mutations would be from the original virus. These scientists were gambling with ‘known unknowns' some of which would result in no 'herd immunity'….  It seems to me horrific that top scientists were able to put forward their proposals to enact mass killing without being challenged, either on ethical or biological grounds. If you want to find out why or how this government has been lax, chaotic, incompetent and cruel in its approach to Covid-19, it starts here. The consequence is that there have been tens of thousands of deaths, and there are tens of thousands of us with long term or lifetime debilitating consequences. They must never be let off the hook." (39)

(13) Test, Trace and Isolate

England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries, said it was "inappropriate to carry out extensive testing for Covid-19". This is the same woman who had said that it was fine that the Cheltenham Festival horse racing event was allowed to proceed. At one of the daily briefings on the coronavirus outbreak, Harries said "The UK, regardless of the position that we may be in now, has been an international exemplar in preparedness." No wonder, Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet commented: "When you see supposedly independent medical advisors to government tell what are manifest untruths to shore up a political regime whose credibility is rapidly collapsing, you have to say that those advisors have lost their integrity and our trust." (40)

When Dr Harries appeared before the Parliament's Health and Social Care committee on the 4th May 2020, she defended the move to stop community testing and tracing in March, suggesting that as the number of cases rapidly increased there was not enough capacity for testing or enough resources to continue to trace contacts of those with the virus. The government said in March they were carrying out actions based on the best "scientific advice". We now know that advice was based on a lack of resources, a result of the failure of the government to respond to the "scientific advice" they had received during the previous ten years. (41)

Speaking before the same committee, UK's Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance, expressed regret that Britain did not "ramp" up its testing capacity at an earlier stage of the coronavirus outbreak, failing to follow the lead of other countries such as Germany. Referring to the early stages of the outbreak, he said: "If we had managed to ramp testing capacity quickly, that would have been beneficial. For all sorts of reasons that didn't happen." We can only speculate what these reasons were, but it is clear that you cannot follow WHO advice of "test, trace and isolate" when the UK only had the capacity to test fewer than 2,000 people a day. "I'd be surprised if when we look back we don't think, yup, we could have done something different there," Sir Patrick said.  (42)

(14) Outsourcing of NHS Contracts

The NHS did have its own "test and trace system" on the outbreak of the pandemic. It was known as "contact tracing" and was organised at a local level by trained professionals.  By tracing the contacts of infected individuals, testing them for infection, isolating or treating the infected and tracing their contacts in turn, public health aims to reduce infections in the population. Diseases for which contact tracing is commonly performed include sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), tuberculosis and measles. Contact tracing has been a pillar of communicable disease control in public health for decades. The eradication of smallpox, for example, was achieved not by universal immunization, but by exhaustive contact tracing to find all infected persons. (43)

Unlike countries like Germany, we did not have a contact tracing system that could not deal with a pandemic (see point 5). Instead of developing the existing system it already had, the UK government decided to outsource the operation out to corporations with close links to the Conservative Party.  One example of this was the award of a second £347m Covid-19 testing contract to Randox, the Tory-linked private healthcare company whose testing kits had to be recalled over the summer because of concerns about contamination. The Conservative MP Owen Paterson, who is paid £100,000 a year to act as a consultant for Randox, was party to a call between the company and James Bethell, the health minister responsible for coronavirus testing supplies. The Guardian reported that: "The deal is a six-month extension of an existing contract and was agreed without other companies being invited to bid. It means the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has now approved transfers of nearly half a billion pounds in taxpayer funds to the Northern Ireland-based company since the pandemic began." (44)

Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies published a detailed report on the failed "test and trace system" on 16th October, 2020: "The Treasury reports that £10 billion has been budgeted for the existing track and trace system to date. We are concerned that much of this budget is not being used effectively. With this budget, the government could have provided £1 million to every UK general practice and £10 million to every top tier-local health authority. Covid-19 is a public health problem so the response must be fully integrated within our national health service and public health system. The key element to the response must be at the local level. The virus relies on families, groups and communities within which to spread and the answer to the virus is to be found by working for its control and eventual elimination in and with those communities locally. National and regional lockdowns and other large scale restrictions are blunt tools; testing and tracing should be a targeted, precise system. Done well, it allows us to identify sources of outbreaks and isolate individuals and those they have been in contact close contact with, rather than entire populations. Without an effective find, test, trace, isolate, and support (FTTIS) system, the government has little choice but to rely on imprecise and damaging local and national lockdowns to prevent surges in infection. These shutter businesses and restrict people – ill or not – from going about their daily lives. In turn, they cause severe economic disruptions. The urgent reform of FTTIS is the most important economic and health priority for the government and the country right now. This pandemic will never be brought under control in the UK without every community having access to a Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support system that actually works." (45)

It was not until June 2020 that a national test and trace was introduced, and it did not reach acceptable standards until January 2021. As George Monbiot has pointed out: "This is the crucial issue. Without an effective test, trace, isolate and support system, we will be stuck in the cycle of infection indefinitely. But if you get the system right, you free the nation from both uncontrolled disease and lockdowns. This is the lesson from Taiwan, a country with twice our population density, that has lost just seven people to Covid-19 without ever locking down. It developed its system with the help of participatory democracy, ensuring there was a high level of public consent and engagement; put professionals in charge at every stage; and provides generous support and daily contact for people who have had to isolate. By contrast, our system has been a fiasco. England's system has so far cost £22bn. For all the good it has done, this money might as well have been stacked and burned. The government put dilettantes in charge and handed key tasks to corporations with a terrible track record of delivery. As I revealed in October, teenage call-centre workers on the minimum wage were given crucial tracing jobs that had previously been reserved for health professionals. As the Independent Sage science group explains, we won't get a grip on the pandemic until we replace this farce with a system led by the NHS, locally run by public health professionals, in which everyone who is asked to isolate is given all the necessary financial and social help and, if required, free accommodation. Yet the government has so far refused even to acknowledge the failure of this system, let alone produce a plan for replacing it." (46)

As Rachel Reeves pointed out: " Even before the pandemic, the government spent an extraordinary £292bn on outsourcing in 2018-19. This amounted to more than a third of all public spending in a single year, and that level is rising year on year.... With so many wasteful contracts handed out to Tory friends and donors during the Covid-19 crisis, the government’s approach to outsourcing has underlined the “one rule for them, another for us” mantra that surrounds Boris Johnson’s cabinet. But it has also shone a disturbing light on just how deeply the Tories have hollowed out our public services... Qualified and experienced British businesses have been passed over by a government 'chumocracy' that awarded contracts to firms with political connections (one company, run by a former neighbour of Matt Hancock, received a contract to provide Covid test kits after its owner exchanged WhatsApp messages with the health secretary). It’s time for the government to halt the emergency procurement measures that it put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, and reintroduce proper competitive tendering. During a crisis like this one, ministers must act at speed – but competitive tendering doesn’t have to be slow. It can be quick and agile, without lowering the standard of services provided or creating 'VIP' lanes for companies awarded contracts that are concealed from the public." (47)

(15) First UK Lockdown

Calls for introducing a National lockdown were rejected by Boris Johnson. However, on 16th March, Johnson advised everyone in the UK against "non-essential" travel and contact with others as well as to work from home if possible and avoid visiting social venues such as pubs, clubs or theatres. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport stated, "it is advised that large gatherings should not take place". However, it was not until 20th March that the Lockdown began.  On that date all schools, cafes, pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres had to close. Chancellor Rishi Sunak also announced that the government will pay 80% of wages for employees not working, up to £2,500 a month, as part of measures to protect people's jobs. (48)

On 11th June 2020, Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) during the early stages of the outbreak told MPs on the House of Commons science committee: "Had we introduced lockdown a week earlier we'd have reduced the final death toll by at least half… Certainly had we introduced them earlier we'd have seen many fewer deaths." Ferguson went on to say that this indecision caused the deaths of about 20,000 people. (49)

(16) Dominic Cummings

Boris Johnson's chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, said in March 2020 at a private meeting that the government's strategy towards the coronavirus was "herd immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad". On 27th April, The Guardian website reported that Cummings was attending Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), where he was trying to influence advice to government.  (50)

A joint investigation by the Daily Mirror and The Guardian, published on 22nd May, alleged that Cummings had broken lockdown rules by travelling to Durham in late March. This report triggered criticism of Cummings at the time as the government had instructed people to remain at home unless absolutely necessary. On 25th May, Cummings made a public statement in the garden of 10 Downing Street, where he tried to defend his actions. His defence included a drive to Barnard Castle on his wife's birthday in order to test out his eyesight. (51)

A YouGov poll conducted after his press conference of 25th May, found that 71% of the public thought that Cummings had broken the lockdown rules and 59% thought he should resign. (52) Despite calls for Cummings to resign (Tory MPs said that they had never had so many emails on a political subject) Johnson defended him saying that he had acted "responsibly, legally and with integrity". Johnson also said that he would no longer answer questions about such allegations from "campaigning newspapers". (53)

Even Conservative MPs such as Jeremy Hunt, who said that Cummings had made multiple moves that were "clearly mistakes" and risked undermining public health advice. Hunt said that amongst these mistakes there were three apparent breaches of the advice or rules. The first was Cummings's brief return to work before they left for Durham, the second was the trip to Durham instead of staying at home and the third was the visit to Barnard Castle.  (54)

In August 2020, The Lancet published a study on the degree to which these events had undermined essential public health messaging, described as the "Cummings effect". (55) This was one of the many incidents that showed that it was a government lie that "we were all in it together". This message was reinforced when it was discovered that after this controversy his annual salary of £140,000 was raised to £144,999. (56)

(17) Right-wing Opponents of Lockdown

Peter Hitchens, the right-wing columnist who works for the Mail on Sunday has constantly argued against a lockdown. On 22nd March 2020, the day before the first lockdown, he wrote: “About 1,600 people die every day in the UK for one reason or another…. The coronavirus deaths, while distressing and shocking, are not so numerous as to require the civilised world to shut down transport and commerce, nor to surrender centuries-old liberties in an afternoon…. But while I see very little evidence of a pandemic, and much more of a PanicDemic, I can witness on my daily round the slow strangulation of dozens of small businesses near where I live and work, and the catastrophic collapse of a flourishing society, all these things brought on by a Government policy made out of fear and speculation rather than thought.” (57)

After two months of lockdown Hitchens insisted the pandemic was over: "For six weeks now I have been saying that the Government's policy on Covid-19 is a mistake…. Let me say it again: the coronavirus is not as dangerous as claimed. Other comparable epidemics have taken place with far less fuss, and we have survived them. The death rate is lower than the Government believed. It passed its peak in this country on April 8, well before the crazy measures introduced by the Government on March 23 could possibly have affected matters. The actions we are taking against it are gravely out of proportion and will destroy the lives of thousands and the prosperity and health of millions. This is not life versus money. It is life versus life." (58)

According to Hitchens by the end of May it was all over: "As the coronavirus itself retreats, how are we going to cope with the panic that lingers everywhere? I still see real fear in the streets, every day, with people afraid of normal human contact. And I see it in the self-evidently ridiculous restrictions planned in schools, workplaces, hairdressers, pubs and restaurants as we tentatively prepare to reopen some of our closed country.  I see it in the Ratnerisation of public transport by the Prime Minister, who in a few thoughtless words ruined any chance that people would turn away from cars to trains and buses, by proclaiming such travel unsafe." (59)

Daily announced deaths and excess deaths (16th March- 13th May, 2020)
Daily announced deaths and excess deaths (16th March-13th May, 2020)

Hitchens became frustrated that so few people agreed with him and blamed Johnson for creating mass panic and denied a second-wave would take place: " As it is with our Prime Minister. He panicked in March, on the basis of poor advice. He did immense damage and knows it. But rather than admit he hugely overestimated the danger of Covid, he continues to insist it is a deadly plague and that it will be back soon in a terrible second wave. The official Covid death and hospitalisation figures, declining ever since April 8, are now bumping along the bottom of the graph, close to zero. Hence the false epidemic of so-called Covid ‘cases', which the Government is trying to pretend exists. How simple-minded do you need to be not to see the great flaw in this?" (60)

On 14th November 2020 Hitchens attacked Johnson for spending government money on a Covid-19 vaccine. "How extraordinary that the Johnson Government, while in serious money trouble, chooses to spend billions on a vaccine against a disease which in many cases has no symptoms at all…. I suspect Mr Sunak is working hard to think of ways of raiding your savings, including your pension and the value of your home. Many are already experiencing a far poorer NHS, with private GP services starting to boom. School and university education are in crisis. This is where panic takes you. I continue to advise against it, before it gets any worse." (61)

In his articles Peter Hitchens often quotes the opinions of Lord Jonathan Sumption, a former senior judge who sat on the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom between 2012 and 2018. Educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford, he got a first in history (he is an expert on the Hundred Years' War). In the 1970s, Sumption served as an adviser to the Conservative MP and Cabinet Minister Sir Keith Joseph (the far-right politician behind Thatcherism). Sumption and Joseph co-wrote a 1979 book, Equality, seeking to show that "no convincing arguments for an equal society have ever been advanced" and that "no such society has ever been successfully created." Sumption has been described as the leading UK philosopher with "conservative neo-liberal and libertarian" views. (62)

On 30 th March 2020, Sumption gave an interview on The World at One about the then recently implemented full restrictive lockdown on the population. He argued that the full restrictive lockdown would have serious negative consequences as a result of restricting civil liberties, locking down a healthy population, and stalling a healthy economy. He questioned whether the virus was serious enough to "warrant putting most of the population into house imprisonment, wrecking our economy for an indefinite period, destroying businesses that honest and hard-working people have taken years to build up, saddling future generations with debt?" He argued that the lockdown would have serious health costs on many people causing "unbelievable distress inflicted on millions of people who are not especially vulnerable and will suffer only mild symptoms or none at all, like the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister".  (63)

Lord Sumption also wrote in The Spectator, that with the lockdown the UK risked becoming a "police state" because of the Covid-19 pandemic. "The pressure on politicians has come from the public. They want action. They don't pause to ask whether the action will work. They don't ask themselves whether the cost will be worth paying. They want action anyway. And anyone who has studied history will recognise here the classic symptoms of collective hysteria. Hysteria is infectious. We are working ourselves up into a lather in which we exaggerate the threat and stop asking ourselves whether the cure may be worse than the disease…. The police have been trying to stop people from doing things like travelling to take exercise in the open country, which are not contrary to the regulations, simply because ministers have said that they would prefer us not to… This is what a police state is like. It's a state in which the government can issue orders or express preferences with no legal authority and the police will enforce ministers' wishes."  (64)

In a podcast interview in July 2020, Lord Sumption claimed evidence existed indicating the virus was very mild compared to other pandemics in the 20th century. In the same interview he also added that MPs had privately thanked him for speaking out against the lockdown but did not "dare open their mouths" to publicly speak out about it. (65)

Another right-winger in British politics, Nigel Farage, is another opponent of national lockdowns. Farage was an early supporter of the Great Barrington Declaration published on 5 th October 2020. The three authors of the document were Martin Kulldorff (professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School), Sunetra Gupta (professor of theoretical epidemiology at University of Oxford) and Jay Bhattacharya (professor of medicine at Stanford University). The declaration calls for individuals at significantly lower risk of dying from COVID-19 – as well as those at higher risk who so wish – to be allowed to resume their normal lives, working normally at their usual workplaces rather than from home, socializing in bars and restaurants, and gathering at sporting and cultural events. The declaration claims that increased infection of those at lower risk would lead to a build-up of immunity in the population that would eventually also protect those at higher risk from the virus. The declaration makes no mention of physical distancing and masks, nor of tracing, nor of long COVID, which has left many fit and young people, as well as people in general, suffering from debilitating symptoms months after a mild infection. (66)

Great Barrington Declaration was signed at the American Institute for Economic Research, a right-leaning organisation in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, that promotes individual rights, small government and open markets. In the US health and human services secretary, Alex Azar, tweeted that the authors had provided "strong reinforcement of the Trump administration's strategy of aggressively protecting the vulnerable while opening schools and the workplace". (67)

Several right-wing members of the Conservative Party, including Steve Baker and Desmond Swayne  spoke in favour of the declaration's policies in the House of Commons. The Daily Mail became a strong supporter of the declaration and urged its readers to sign the petition: "Now more than 12,000 scientists and medics have signed a petition calling on the Government to abandon damaging lockdown restrictions - as it attracts an ever-growing list of supporters… The petition, which appears to be aimed at both the US and the UK, has been set up in a bid to try and prevent the drastic lockdown measures that were used in March from returning." (68)

Conservative journalist Toby Young wrote an opinion piece in The Spectator supporting the declaration and querying the credentials of its critics, claiming they were "censors" and "smear merchants" while claiming the declaration's authors were not "outliers or cranks" but there had been a "well-orchestrated attempt to suppress and discredit it" by the progressive media: "A similar line has been taken by nearly all left-leaning newspapers. The Guardian ran an article on the declaration last Saturday, but only to flag up that its more than 400,000 signatories included a handful of dubious-sounding ‘experts', such as ‘Dr Johnny Bananas' and ‘Prof Cominic Dummings'. Hardly surprising, given that lockdown zealots have been openly encouraging their followers on social media to sign up with fake names… Ignore the censors and the smear merchants. Go to right now and sign the petition." (69)

On 1st November, 2020, Eurosceptic former members of the European Parliament, Nigel Farage and Richard Tice, announced in The Daily Telegraph that an application has been made to the Electoral Commission for their Brexit Party to be renamed Reform UK; after identifying the British government response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a more pressing issue than Brexit. Farage said renewed lockdown would "result in more life-years lost than it hopes to save" and argued that "building immunity" would be more effective. (70)

What these right-wing thinkers failed to grasp was that it was impossible to separate the health of the nation and the health of the economy. According to Michael Marmot: "Countries that managed the pandemic well had less of a hit to their economies. The UK with its high excess mortality had among the biggest drops in GDP in Europe, not because the disease itself is damaging the economy, but because failing to take the decisive action needed, means that the UK staggers from lockdown to partial restrictions to lockdown with immense damage to people's livelihoods and their lives, and amplification of inequalities." (71)

(18) Care-homes

I stated in point 8 that at the start of the pandemic we were ranked 29 out of 31 for available hospital beds in the European Union. This created serious problems for health authorities and on 19 th March 2020 it became government policy to send hospital patients back into care homes, without making it mandatory for them to be tested for Covid-19. (72)

This policy was not changed until 15 th April. However, by this time the damage had been done. On 5th June 2020 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported 17,422 deaths of care home residents from Covid-19 in England and Wales - 47% of the total number of deaths from the disease. Research by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that was published in November 2020, estimated that 29,400 more care home residents, directly and indirectly attributable to Covid-19, died during the first 23-weeks of the pandemic than expected from historical trends; an equivalent to 6.5% of all care home beds available in England. (73)

(19) Failure to Seal Borders

Unlike other countries who have dealt with the Covid-19 outbreak the UK was very slow to seal its borders. During February and early March, all passengers from Hubei Province in China and certain areas of South Korea, as well as Iran and later Italy, were asked to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. On 5 th August, 2020, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, published a highly critical report on this subject.  It pointed out that Spain was a major source of infection introduced to the UK. The MPs claimed that government advice had initially focused on Asian countries and did not "recognise soon enough" the risk of importing the virus from Europe. They added that a later decision - on 13th March - to end self-isolation advice for international arrivals not displaying symptoms had been "inexplicable".  The MPs cited examples from around the world where countries were requiring passengers arriving in that country to comply with stringent quarantine or monitoring measures.

The MPs provided evidence from scientific studies, that said it was likely that thousands of infected people arrived in the UK before full lockdown came in 10 days later. "It is highly likely that this contributed to the rapid increase in the spread of the virus in mid-March and to the overall scale of the outbreak in the UK," they added. "The failure properly to consider the possibility of imposing stricter requirements on those arriving - such as mandatory self-isolation, increased screening, targeted testing or enforceable quarantine - was a serious error." (74)

The UK did not properly seal its borders until 18th January 2021, 316 days after the first death from Covid-19 was announced. After this date people travelling to the UK had to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before setting off. This had to take up to three days before their journey began. After arriving travellers - including British nationals – had to self-isolate for 10 days. Opposition MPs asked why public health measures at the borders first promised by ministers a fortnight ago took two weeks to introduce. (75)

(20) Wearing Face-Masks

Boris Johnson like Donald Trump was hostile to the idea of telling people to wear face-masks despite the fact that they were used by many countries to contain Covid-19. Most countries in Europe have introduced mandatory face mask rules for public places. On 8 April 2020, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control published its masking recommendations, stating that the "use of face masks in the community could be considered, especially when visiting busy, closed spaces". (76)

On 5 th June 2020, the British Medical Association urged the UK government to extend the rules regarding the wearing of face covering to all situations where social distancing is not possible. On 15th June wearing a face covering became mandatory on public transport. (77)

As Roy Anderson, Professor in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College, pointed out in The Independent: "I find it ironic that in the peak of the pandemic back in April and May, while people in all other countries were already wearing face coverings, one of the only countries not requiring the wearing of masks or face coverings was Britain. When the pandemic was in remission we were told to start wearing them. I can only conclude that this was due to cost-cutting.  Our country was so ill-prepared for the pandemic that the government chose to actively discourage the wearing of masks by the general public as it didn't even have sufficient numbers for the NHS! We have been misled or even deceived into believing masks served no useful purpose and were even detrimental to our health, bearing in mind it is estimated that we touch our faces 20 times per hour." (78)

Boris Johnson came under attack from his own MPs about this became an important issue when it was announced that that pupils would be returning to school in September 2020. The Scottish government recommended the wearing of face masks in secondary school corridors. Johnson rejected this move and seemed to agree with Tory MP Marcus Fysh who claimed on Twitter that "Masks should be banned in schools. The country should be getting back to normal not pandering to this scientifically illiterate guff." (79)

On 21st August, the WHO issued a statement saying, "children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a one-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area". Johnson now came under attack from headteachers, teaching unions and medical experts. On 26th August Johnson did a U-turn and abandoned advice that pupils should not wear face masks in English secondary schools. He announced that face coverings was now mandatory in communal areas and corridors for children in schools. (80)

(21) Ending the First Lockdown

A significant number of right-wing Tory MPs, have always opposed the idea of a National Lockdown because of the impact this would have on the profitability of companies and the inevitable increase in public spending.  Steve Baker MP commented: "We should not throw our prosperity away by shutting down and destroying our economy, and overlooking the untold health consequences caused by lockdowns." (81) Mark Harper MP added: "Lockdowns and restrictions cause immense economic, social and non-Covid health damage... At the moment, the cure we're prescribing runs the very real risk of being worse than the disease, and it's important that we base all our decisions as a country on informed scientific, economic and health data." (82) The right-wing columnist, Toby Young claimed in June that the virus has all but disappeared and "when we have herd immunity Boris will face a reckoning on this pointless and damaging lockdown." (83)

Boris Johnson has largely gone along with the absurd idea that there is a trade-off between protecting public health and protecting our social and economic lives. There is no trade-off available. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that UK will suffer one of the greatest economic declines in the G20 over the next few years. One of the main reasons for this was we were too slow to lockdown and did not keep it going for long enough. (84)

To protect himself from this small group of politicians from the far-right Boris Johnson should have explained from the outset where the UK needed to be before it lifted the lockdown. It should have stated what the R number should be; what the number of positive cases should be; how great a reduction in Covid-19 hospital patient numbers there should be. It would have committed not to end the lockdown until such conditions have been met. However, he chose to chase short-term popularity by lifting restrictions as soon as he thinks he can. In doing so he guaranteed we would not have one, but several lockdowns. (85) 

On 1st June 2020, the government announced the beginning of the end of Lockdown. Car and caravan showrooms, outdoor sports amenities and outdoor non-food markets could now reopen. The prohibitions on leaving home were replaced by a prohibition on staying overnight away from home, with certain specific exceptions. Gatherings of people from more than one household were limited to six people. This was followed by the general re-opening of English retail shops and public-facing businesses. On 25 th June the UK government announced plans to relax rules for England and Wales allowing pubs and restaurants to utilise outdoor spaces such as terraces, pavements and car parks. (86)

On 8th July, 2020 the government announced the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme (EOHO Scheme). Its main objective was to support businesses reopening after the Covid-19 lockdown period. Under the Scheme Government provided 50% off the cost of food and/or non-alcoholic drinks eaten-in at participating businesses UK-wide. It applied all-day Monday to Wednesday from 3 rd to 31 st August 2020. The discount was capped at a maximum of £10 per head. Overall, £849 million was claimed under the Scheme across 78,116 outlets. (87)

Research carried out by Thiemo Fetzer, an economist at the University of Warwick, found that the scheme was closely linked to an increase in Covid-19 cases during August. Fetzer believed that the scheme could have directly caused a sixth of new coronavirus case clusters over the summer. Coronavirus spread more rapidly in areas with a lot of participating restaurants, Fetzer found, and infections in those areas slowed after the scheme ended. This is a classic example of the dangers of trying to increase economic activity during a pandemic. Fetzer pointed out: "The empirical estimates suggest that the scheme may be responsible for around 8-17% of all new detected Covid-19 clusters emerging during August and into early September in the UK… Given the dramatic rise of Covid-19 infections across the UK in recent weeks, the likely changes in consumer behaviour due to higher infection risks and the ensuing economic damage this generates suggests that the EOHO scheme may have indirect economic and public health costs that vastly outstrip its short-term economic benefits." (88)

(22) Second Lockdown

Boris Johnson came under considerable pressure to return to a pre-Covid-19 economy.  In July, 2020, Johnson announced an end to the government's "work from home" guidance and should return to the workplace at the "discretion" of their employers. Furthermore, they would no longer be advised to stay away from public transport. According to the Financial Times this statement was made "despite the misgivings of some of his senior scientific advisers." (89)

On 5th September 2020, the government told all civil servants to abandon home-working despite increasing Covid-19 deaths. Six days later it was announced that the R number was now between 1.0 and 1.2 for the first time since March. It was now clear that we have come out of the lockdown too early. We were now back to where we were when we went into the first lockdown. However, Johnson was unwilling to admit to his mistake and refused to announce a U-turn. On 16 th September 2020 Johnson says that he rejected the idea of a second national lockdown because it would have "disastrous" financial consequences for the UK. (90)

On 18th September the R number increased to between 1.1 and 1.4 and government scientists warned the virus is widespread across the country and there are "far worse things to come". Johnson admits a second wave of Covid-19 infections is coming to the UK, but he was unwilling "to go into bigger lockdown measures". Instead, he announced a fine of up to £10,000 for people in England who refuse to self-isolate. The new law, enforceable from 28 th September, would apply to anyone testing positive for Covid-19, or a person ordered to self-isolate through contact-tracing. To help low-income people, a one-off £500 payment would be available (research shows that this money is extremely difficult to obtain). This is a different approach to most other developed countries where people are paid to self-isolate. (91)

At a Downing Street press conference on 21st September, Dr Patrick Vallance, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, says that there could be as many as 50,000 cases per day by mid-October if no further action is taken, and this "would be expected to lead to about 200 deaths per day". Johnson's only reaction was the introduction of a requirement that all shop staff should wear face coverings (something that should have been done in March) and a limit on weddings to fifteen people. Initial fines for rule breaking are increased from £100 to £200. By the end of the month this is increased to £10,000. (92)

(23) Return to School

In August 2020 Boris Johnson made it clear that reopening schools in September was an "absolute priority" for the government. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick commented: "We have to get children back to school in September". The teaching unions were not so keen and pointed out that there was a rise in the number of coronavirus cases and the decision to pause lockdown easing in England and quoted chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty as saying the country is "near the limit" for opening up society. Patrick Roach, the general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, argued that ministers will have to convince staff and parents that it is still safe to reopen schools next month. "The warning from the chief medical officer that a fine balance has to be struck in ensuring public health at this stage of the pandemic, and that the country may have reached the limits to the easing of lockdown, will no doubt prompt questions for many parents as well as for those working in schools." (93)

The Lancet urged caution and said it was dangerous to open schools without a good test–trace–isolate strategy in place: "Assuming 68% of contacts could be traced, we estimate that 75% of individuals with symptomatic infection would need to be tested and positive cases isolated if schools return full-time in September, or 65% if a part-time rota system were used. If only 40% of contacts could be traced, these figures would increase to 87% and 75%, respectively. However, without these levels of testing and contact tracing, reopening of schools together with gradual relaxing of the lockdown measures are likely to induce a second wave that would peak in December, 2020, if schools open full-time in September, and in February, 2021, if a part-time rota system were adopted. In either case, the second wave would result in R rising above 1 and a resulting second wave of infections 2·0–2·3 times the size of the original Covid-19 wave. When infectiousness of children and young adults was varied from 100% to 50% of that of older ages, we still found that a comprehensive and effective test–trace–isolate strategy would be required to avoid a second Covid-19 wave. To prevent a second Covid-19 wave, relaxation of physical distancing, including reopening of schools, in the UK must be accompanied by large-scale, population-wide testing of symptomatic individuals and effective tracing of their contacts, followed by isolation of diagnosed individuals." (94)

This point was reinforced in an article in The New Scientist. It quoted research by Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths at University College London (UCL) who claimed that the UK faced a second wave of coronavirus infections in the winter of 2020-21  if the country's testing and contact tracing system didn't improve by the time schools fully reopened and people return to workplaces. Panovska-Griffiths and her colleagues found that there is a risk of the UK experiencing a second peak in December that will be more than twice the size of the first one. Her team modelled the amount of testing and tracing needed to stop the virus rebounding as society eases restrictions. "If all children in the UK return to school by early September, as is currently planned, and almost three-quarters of people return to workplaces, the UK would need to be testing 75 per cent of symptomatic covid-19 cases to stay on top of the spread of the virus... The current rate in England, which the team used as a basis for their UK modelling, is 50 per cent. The proportion of their contacts traced would have to jump from about 50 per cent in England now to 68 per cent for the whole of the UK." (95)

Despite these warnings the government announced on 15th August, that schools would definitely be opening in September. Boris Johnson announced that there was a "moral duty" to get children in England back to school. Head teachers were responsible for the safety of the children but did provide guidance on how this could be done. Heads were told to keep classes or year groups apart as much as possible to prevent the virus spreading. This meant limits on mixing in hallways and a ban on assemblies, collective worship and choirs. It was suggested that break times and lunch should be staggered to keep children apart. Other guidance included: "Social distancing should be maintained, although the guidance accepts that teachers may not always be able to stay two metres apart from pupils. Classrooms should have forward-facing desks to limit the spread of the virus and windows and doors should be opened where possible to improve ventilation." (96)

Two major surveillance studies by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Imperial College London were published in November 2020. They showed infections among people aged 16-24 increased in September. By October increases could be seen throughout the 2-24-year-old age bracket. Both studies suggested that there was growing evidence older children were catching and transmitting Covid-19 at similar rates to adults. Professor Mark Woolhouse at the University of Edinburgh said this was "not surprising given that schools are operating much closer to normality than most other parts of society". (97)

The Schools Infection Study (SIS) – a partnership between Public Health England, the Office for National Statistics and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine – tested around 10,000 children and staff in 105 schools across England in November. Of those tested for current infection in the 105 schools surveyed in November, 58 (55.2 percent) schools had positive infections among staff and pupils. It also found secondary schools continue to have more infections than primary schools. (98)

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that young people were especially vulnerable to long Covid. It said that 12.9% of 2-11 year olds and 14.5% of 12-16 years still had symptoms five weeks after initially getting the virus.  Symptoms in people under 18 appear to be distinct from older long Covid sufferers. "Parents have described more than 100 symptoms to the organisers of the Long Covid Kids support group, including a ‘large number' of children having appendicitis problems, as well as some reports of paralysis, ‘electric shock' like feelings to the eyes and head, testicular pain, liver damage, ‘Covid toes' and new-onset seizures…. The Long Covid Kids group says 4,000 children have been admitted to hospital since the pandemic began – with half of those under 5. Some 858 were admitted in December alone." (99)

(24) Second Lockdown

Instead of a second National Lockdown the government introduced local restrictions. By the beginning of October about a quarter of the population were in local lockdowns. On 12th October Johnson unveiled the new three-tier system of restrictions for England (took effect from 14th October). Areas were now grouped into one of three risk categories – medium, high, or very high. Medium areas are subject to the rule of six and the 10pm curfew, high areas have restrictions on indoor meetings but groups of six can continue to meet in outdoor settings, and very high areas will see the closure of businesses such as pubs and casinos, but not restaurants. (100)

The localised tier system did not work and on 27th October the UK recorded 367 Covid-19 deaths, the highest number in a single day since May.  Johnson finally admitted defeat and he announced a second lockdown for England, for four weeks from Thursday 5th November to Wednesday 2 nd December, in an attempt to prevent what he described as a "medical and moral disaster" for the NHS. After this lockdown England would revert to the tier system. Parliament overwhelmingly backed the restrictions but 34 Conservative MPs, concerned about civil liberties and the effect on wider health and the economy, rebelled against the government. Another 19, including former Prime Minister Theresa May, abstained. (101)

On 11th November, a group of 50 Conservative MPs (most of them were former members of the ERG group) who voted against England's second lockdown formed the COVID Recovery Group to argue for a different approach to dealing with the virus once restrictions end on 2 December, one that will enable society to "live with the virus". They argued they would fight any future lockdown in England, arguing it would be "devastating" for the economy and "cost lives". The "cure" prescribed by the government ran "the risk of being worse than the disease", Mark Harper MP said. (102)

(25) Tier System

Despite the fact that Covid-19 deaths continued to increase (696 on 28 th November) the National Lockdown came to an end on 2 nd December. A new tier system was introduced. Most of the country, including London and Liverpool, were in Tier 2, while large parts of the Midlands, North East and North West, including Greater Manchester and Birmingham, were placed in Tier 3. Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were in Tier 1. Johnson also announced plans for Christmas that would allow three households to meet up indoors and outdoors for five days from 23–27 December. This was later changed to one day over Christmas. (103)

Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, was one of those who objected to this new tier system. In a speech in the House of Commons on 1st December 2020, he said: "I cannot support these regulations, it is not because I am some sort of rebel or want to undermine the government. I, like many other honourable members, have come to this conclusion and want to look their constituents in the eye, and come to a decision that's in their best interest. That's what we were elected here to do…. When I look my constituents in the eye I will have to justify why tomorrow we will be going into tier two. And I can trump everybody here because Worthing in my constituency has 28 out of 100,000 - the lowest in the country. The other part of my constituency, Adur, is 45. We're surrounded either side by Arun with 55, Brighton and Hove with 57 and Horsham with 67, all below. And the sea, hopefully zero. Worthing Hospital has four covid patients, last week it had eight. Our infection rates are falling, our patient levels are falling, and yet tomorrow my constituency will be going into Tier 2, having started the lockdown in tier one and having come down continuously in the right direction." (104)

Loughton, was like those other Tory MPs in the south of England, thought that it was a good idea that only those in industrial areas should be in lockdown. He clearly had not studied the way Covid-19 was spreading. It did not take long for those who bothered to look at the figures, that the Tier system was not working. Even those areas in the highest tier were not bringing the figures down. Those in the lower tiers, were seeing cases increasing rapidly. Loughton is right that at the beginning of December the cases in Worthing, as in the rest of Sussex, was low. However, if he looked at the neighbouring county of Kent, it was increasing faster than any other part of the country. Johnson did put Worthing in Tier 2, against Loughton's wishes. Loughton was wrong to demand Worthing should be in Tier 1 as in the following weeks the town, like others in the south saw a dramatic increase in cases of Covid-19. Worthing's cases went up to 536 per 100,000 in the week to 30 th December.  This was close to a 20-fold increase since early December. By the first week of January it was 756 per 100,000 (the national average was 553 per 100,000). (105)

(26) Inequality and Covid-19

Boris Johnson's rallying cry has been "we are all in it together". Nothing could be further from the truth. Researchers from University College London (UCL) found almost half of those who were already struggling financially before the lockdown said their situation was now "much worse", and a further quarter said they were "worse" off as well. In contrast, only 20 per cent of individuals who reported they were financially comfortable pre-Covid feel they have become worse off, and 27 per cent even say they are now doing better. The lead author of the "Covid-19 Social Study", Daisy Fancourt from UCL, said the research underlined how the lockdown was exacerbating existing inequality in Britain. (106)

Sally Warren, Director of Policy at The King's Fund, said: "The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the stark inequalities that exist throughout our society. People who have been worst affected by the virus are generally those who had worse health outcomes before the pandemic, including people working in lower-paid professions, those from ethnic minority backgrounds and people living in poorer areas. We've known for many years that these groups typically have worse health outcomes, but there has been disappointingly little effort over the past decade to address inequalities and improve people's health. The scandal is not that the virus has disproportionately affected certain groups, but that it has taken a global pandemic to shine a light on deeply entrenched health inequalities."  (107)

Age standardised diagnosis rates by deprivation and sex (May, 2020)
Age standardised diagnosis rates by deprivation and sex (May, 2020)

The Nuffield Trust reported during the first wave that where you lived had a significant impact on covid-19 deaths: "Recently published data suggests that the most deprived areas of England have twice the rate of deaths involving Covid-19 than the most affluent. But Covid-19 is not unique in this respect: inequalities in mortality have long been evident across many causes of death. Indeed, deaths from suicide, conditions such as liver disease and cancer as well as overall mortality rates all show that death rates for people living in the most deprived decile of the country are higher than those in the least deprived... Covid-19 has highlighted a longstanding and wicked problem. Concern about this should renew interest and action to tackle inequalities in health in the population." (108)

The other great "all in it together" symbolic gesture from the start was the pledge that all vaccines would only be available through the NHS, no paying to queue-jump. The rich will always find ways of overcoming problems like this. It was reported in the Guardian on 14th January 2021 that Knightsbridge Circle, a private concierge club for the super-rich, has already flown members out to the UAE and India on private jets for three week "vaccination holidays". (109)

Michael Marmot, who had been warning about how growing inequality was having on the long-term health of the nation, argued that the pandemic had made matters worse: "Firstly, the pandemic and associated societal response amplified social and economic inequalities in all the domains that we analysed in 10 Years On - early childhood, education, employment, having enough money to live on, housing and communities. It also showed even steeper social gradients in mortality rates and strikingly high mortality rates among people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups. Much of this excess can be attributed to deprivation." (110)

Excess Deaths in the UK: March-May 2020
Excess Deaths in the UK: March-May 2020

Independent SAGE also argues that an important outcome of the coronavirus has been the recognition of the social inequalities it has both produced and exacerbated and could provide us with the opportunity to create a better society: "In order to (re)build a cohesive society in the post-covid-19 period, government, local authorities and public health bodies as well as the media and social media will have to ensure that their communications, policies and practices disrupt the social stigmatisation of minoritised ethnic groups that has produced social exclusion and hate crime. In particular, this requires that they refrain from linking disease (or other problems) with particular nations or ethnic groups and, instead, use language that does not stereotype or stigmatize minoritised ethnic groups or individualise structural processes. This is not simply a passive process in that it also requires government, media and social media explicitly to oppose the use of xenophobic, racist, and hostile rhetoric, including by removing posts that negatively racialise ethnic minorities from social media. The policy decisions to be taken also require that interventions, as well as communications, do not stigmatise areas, communities and minoritised ethnic groups. This process will be facilitated by collaborative knowledge exchange and public engagement with community groups, community champions and local experts." (111)

The other great "all in it together" symbolic gesture from the start was the pledge that all vaccines would only be available through the NHS, no paying to queue-jump. The rich will always find ways of overcoming problems like this. It was reported in the Guardian on 14th January 2021 that Knightsbridge Circle, a private concierge club for the super-rich, has already flown members out to the UAE and India on private jets for three week "vaccination holidays". (112)

(27) Education and Poverty

On the outbreak of Covid-19 it was clear that schools would have to close down and children would be forced to continue with their studies online. It was soon pointed out this would disadvantage children without their own personal computer.  On 15th April 2020, Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, stated that disadvantaged teenagers in England will be able to borrow laptops or tablets to help them study at home when schools are closed during the pandemic. He added this would "take the pressure" off parents with children at home. (113)

However, it was reported in The Guardian on 7th June 2020, that a survey showed that the vast majority of schools had not received any computers for disadvantaged teenagers with just a week to go before secondary schools reopen. "When pressed on the question of numbers sent directly to headteachers this weekend, the Department for Education was unable to confirm whether any devices had been delivered. It stated that, in May, laptops were being delivered "daily" to local authorities, who are responsible for distributing the devices to care leavers and pupils with a social worker, along with disadvantaged year 10 students at maintained secondary schools. However, the vast majority – around 72% – of secondary school pupils attend academies, which are no longer directly linked to local authorities. Academy headteachers have been "invited to order" and some "have done so", a DfE spokesperson said, but would not divulge numbers or say whether any of the devices ordered have been delivered. (114)

Eventually, the schools were told the number of computers they would receive for disadvantaged children. However, on 23rd October 2020 the policy changed: "Schools in some of the most deprived areas of the country were told on Friday night they would not receive the laptops they were promised to help their poorest and most vulnerable pupils learn remotely. Headteachers across England received emails from the Department for Education on the eve of half-term informing them that their allocations of laptops for disadvantaged pupils had been slashed by around 80%. The blow comes just two days after the government used its Covid-19 emergency powers to impose a new legal duty on schools to provide a remote education to any pupil unable to attend lessons because of the pandemic."

As Vic Goddard of Passmores Academy in Essex, pointed out, he was appalled to discover his original allocation of 129 laptops is going to be reduced to just 26: "We weren't allocated enough in the first place." One in every four students at his school – about 300 pupils – do not have access to a device they can use to learn online at home during local lockdowns or periods when they need to self-isolate, he said, disadvantaging those children further. "It's unfair on the children and it puts financial pressure on their families, who have all this anxiety that they're letting their children down."

At Parklands primary school in Leeds, one of the most deprived schools in the country, the number of laptops being allocated has been cut from 61 to 13. Headteacher Chris Dyson said: "I'm absolutely devastated. What am I going to do with 13 laptops in the event that a bubble has to be sent home? It's ridiculous." He said it would "massively" widen the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children who need to self-isolate or learn remotely. "If you're going down the online learning route, everybody needs access to a laptop. It's nothing short of an absolute scandal and an absolute robbery – another nail in the coffin for disadvantaged children." (115)

(28) Free School Meals

In 1947, the Labour government passed legislation requiring local authorities to provide school dinners that were consistent with legal nutritional requirements. Free school meals were available to children with families on low incomes. The government paid the full cost of these meals. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government ended entitlement to free meals for thousands of children, and obliged local authorities to open up provision of school meals to competitive tender. This was intended to reduce the cost of school meals provided by local authorities. However, it caused a substantial decrease in the standard of school food. A 1999 survey by the Medical Research Council suggested that despite rationing, children in 1950 had healthier diets than their counterparts in the 1990s, with more nutrients and less fat and sugar. (116)

For the financial year 2014-2015, the government paid schools a premium of £1,300 for primary-aged pupils, or £935 for secondary-aged pupils, for each eligible child. 11% of families entitled to free meals do not claim them, which means that their schools do not receive the extra funding. Free school meals have become an essential part of the diet of disadvantaged children. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the National Centre for Social Research, free school meals for all students significantly increases attainment in schools. As a result of this research the National Union of Teachers began advocating free school meals for all children.  (117)

The subject of free school meals became a controversial subject during the lockdown because schools were closed and more children could in theory access them because their parents were now receiving universal credit. However, Johnson rejected the idea of paying for the provision of free school meals. Marcus Rashford, a popular footballer, started a campaign to make the government change its mind. With the petition close to 300,000 signatures after less than a week, Labour proposed an opposition day debate on the matter of extending free school meals, which was rejected by a majority of 61. Rashford criticised those who voted against it as lacking humanity. (118)

As a result of this campaign Johnson decided to make a U-turn and promised to provide 1.4 million (17.3% of school children) with free meals. Campaigners asked that the parents be given £30 vouchers (for two weeks supply) to pay for the food.  Johnson rejected this idea as he saw this was another opportunity to give out contracts to Tory Party doners. It soon became apparent that some of these companies were cheating the children by delivering food parcels whose meagre contents were worth a fraction of the £30. After a social media campaign led by Marcus Rashford, Johnson promised to rethink his policy.  (119)

It is another outsourcing failure. The first company named in this scandal was Chartwells that is based in Chichester and got the contract for free food delivery to pupils in West Sussex schools. The £30 free-school-meal pack supplied by them could have been bought for £5.22. Chartwells is owned by Compass Group UK, that has obtained a large number of government contracts in catering, cleaning, vending, and facilities management services.  Electoral Commission records show Paul Walsh – chairman of Compass Group has given substantial sums of money to the Tory party over the years. Walsh, who had been at the helm of Compass since 2014, was a political advisor to David Cameron during his first four years as prime minister. When will this government realise that capitalist companies work on the basis of maximising their profits? They do this by reducing the quantity or quality of the product or service they are providing. (120)

Here we have an example of the rich stealing from the poor. As the Guardian pointed out in its editorial on 12th January 2021: "Free school meals are not charity. They are provided because, in our low-wage economy, millions of working parents live in poverty – which is made harder to escape by the shortage of social housing. As new research by the Resolution Foundation has shown, living costs have risen sharply over the past year for low-income families with children, while those with savings have grown richer. These are changes over which individuals and families have little or no control, at a time when many people already feel justifiably afraid. When it comes to Covid-19 regulations, ministers appear eager to point the finger at wrongdoers. But when it comes to feeding children, it is they who deserve to feel the force of disapproval. There has never been a worse time to be so mean." (121)

(29) Vaccines for Covid-19

Work to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus diseases SARS and MERS had established knowledge about the structure and function of coronaviruses. According to a study published in 2005 the identification and development of novel vaccines and medicines to treat SARS was a priority for governments and public health agencies around the world at that time. Despite this research no cure or protective vaccine proven to be safe and effective against SARS and MERS in humans was discovered. (122)

In February 2020, the World Health Organisation said it did not expect a vaccine against Covid-19 to become available in less than 18 months. (123) Despite this research accelerated rapidly during early 2020 of varied technology platforms for a Covid - 19 vaccine. The urgency to create a vaccine led to compressed schedules that shortened the standard vaccine development timeline, in some cases combining clinical trial steps over months, a process typically conducted sequentially over years. The New York Times reported: "Seven of the roughly 90 projects being pursued by governments, pharmaceutical makers, biotech innovators and academic laboratories have reached the stage of clinical trials. With political leaders - not least President Trump - increasingly pressing for progress, and with big potential profits at stake for the industry, drug makers and researchers have signaled that they are moving ahead at unheard-of speeds." (124)

On 24 June 2020, China approved the CanSino vaccine for limited use in the military and two inactivated virus vaccines for emergency use in high-risk occupations. (125) On 11th August 2020, Russia announced the approval of its Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use. However, according to the New York Times: "More than a month after becoming the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, Russia has yet to administer it to a large population outside a clinical trial, health officials and outside experts say." (126)

The Pfizer-BioNTech partnership submitted an EUA request to the FDA for the mRNA vaccine BNT162b2 on 20th November 2020. On 2nd December 2020, the United Kingdom's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) gave temporary regulatory approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. According to BBC News: "The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for mass vaccination. Britain's medicines regulator, the MHRA, says the jab, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 illness, is safe to be rolled out. The first doses are already on their way to the UK, with 800,000 due in the coming days, Pfizer said." (127)

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was tested on more than 40,000 and required two doses given three weeks apart. An interim analysis of study data showed a potential efficacy of over 90% in preventing infection within seven days of a second dose. It is unknown, as is the duration of the immune effect it confers. Reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare, and no long-term complications have been reported. (128)

As the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires two doses per person, the U.K. government said initially that a second dose would be given either three or four weeks after the first dose and in line with the dosing regimens tested in clinical trials. There is a very good reason why scientists believe it is important for older people to be given two doses of a new vaccine.  As William Park, the medical journalist, has pointed out: "To understand why older people are harder to vaccinate, we have to look at the differences in their immune system. Many infectious diseases are more severe in older adults than younger adults. Older people have more risk factors – a lifetime of exposure to carcinogens or other infectious diseases will increase the risk of future disease from new infections. But they also undergo something called immunosenescence – ageing of the immune system. Just like many other parts of the body, our immune system shows signs of our ageing. Some of the immune cells lose their function. The immune system is a very complex network of cell types that interact with each other. If something, somewhere within the system is not working, it interrupts the delicate balance of the immune response." (129)

In an attempt to overcome this problem the Pfizer/BioNTech trials gave people two doses. Deborah Dunn-Walters, professor of immunology at University of Surrey and chair of the British Society for Immunology's Covid-19 and Immunology taskforce, has explained why: "Vaccines prepare our immune system to defend against infection by showing it a small part of the virus, in this instance a ‘spike protein' that appears on the outside of the virus. Our immune system produces a bespoke response to this protein, making antibodies and memory cells which it stores away against future need. Creating these initial antibodies and memory cells can take a couple of weeks, so there is a lag time before you start to be protected. If our immune system later sees the spike protein again, it can bring out all its pre-made resources to act immediately. So why do we need two jabs? Immunity elicited by the vaccine can be boosted. When the spike protein appears a second time and the immune system brings its armoury out, the immune memory cells will rapidly increase in number and more antibody will be produced to neutralise the virus. This will happen whether the spike protein is in the vaccine or on a live virus. To get the best response possible, the current vaccines were designed to have a second ‘boosting' dose after the first ‘priming' dose." (130)

However, Boris Johnson later changed his mind about the need to have a second dose three weeks later and announced that there would be a gap of up to 12 weeks. He did this in an effort to give more people a first dose – and some initial protection against Covid-19. The U.K.'s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said in a statement published soon afterwards that it was a "very difficult and finely balanced decision" but it endorsed the U.K. government's move to pursue coverage of as high a proportion of the population as possible. (131)

BioNTech and Pfizer responded to the decision, saying there is no evidence that their vaccine will continue to protect against Covid-19 if the second shot is given more than 21 days after the initial dose. "Pfizer and BioNTech's Phase 3 study for the COVID-19 vaccine was designed to evaluate the vaccine's safety and efficacy following a 2-dose schedule, separated by 21 days. The safety and efficacy of the vaccine has not been evaluated on different dosing schedules as the majority of trial participants received the second dose within the window specified in the study design. Although data from the Phase 3 study demonstrated that there is a partial protection from the vaccine as early as 12 days after the first dose, there is no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days." (132)

Evidence from Israel emerged that undermined the idea of increasing the gap between the first and second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The The British Medical Journal reported that in Israel, which, like the UK, is currently in its third national lockdown, has so far vaccinated more than 75% of its older people with at least one dose. Early reports from the vaccine rollout have suggested that the first dose led to a 33% reduction in cases of Covid-19 compared with efficacy of at least 52% reported in clinical trials. "A report from the Clalit Research Institute compared the infection data of 200,000 people aged 60 and over who were not vaccinated with the infection data of 200,000 people of the same age group who received one vaccine dose and were monitored for at least 11 days from the date of vaccination. On day 14 there was a ‘significant decrease of about 33% in the rate of positive tests for the coronavirus' among those who had been vaccinated. This decrease remained the same between days 15 and 17."The report has raised concerns, as published results have suggested that the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine was 52.4% betwee n the first and second dose (spaced 21 days apart), and data assessed by Public Health England indicated it could be as much as 89% protective from day 15 to 21. The Clalit Research Institute pointed out that its results included only people aged 60 and over - whereas Pfizer trials also included younger people. (133)

As a result of this research, on 23rd January 2021, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the council of the British Medical Association (BMA), said the gap could reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. He said that while he understood the rationale behind the decision to delay the second dose, the UK should follow “best practice” and reduce the wait time to six weeks. Nagpaul pointed to analysis from the World Health Organization that said second doses of the Pfizer vaccine should only be delayed “in exceptional circumstances” and recommended a gap of four weeks between doses. Nagpaul added: “Most nations in the world are facing challenges similar to the UK in having limited vaccine supply and also wanting to protect their population maximally. No other nation has adopted the UK's approach… Obviously the protection will not vanish after six weeks but what we do not know is what level of protection will be offered… we should not be extrapolating data where we don't have it. I do understand the trade-off and the rationale but if that was the right thing to do then we would see other nations following suit.” (134)

The Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine was approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on 30 December.  It is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees. It has been modified to look more like coronavirus - although it can't cause illness. The MHRA approved the use of two full doses, which was found to be 62% effective. The government ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, following the roll-out of the Pfizer vaccine, which was the first to be approved. (135)

The MHRA decision to allow a delay in giving the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to patients was less controversial.  According to the government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, unpublished data suggests the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is still effective when the doses are administered 12 weeks apart. Deborah Dunn-Walters has supported this move in regard to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine: "AstraZeneca trials reported early indications that a longer interval between doses is beneficial. Pfizer trials did not have such data, but the similar Moderna vaccine elicited immunity lasting just under two months after one dose. It boiled down to simple sums based on real-world scarcity: if a vaccine protects people from disease by 89% after one dose and 95% after two doses, and someone gives you just 200 doses this month, you can choose to protect 95 people after three weeks or 178 people for 12 weeks." (136)

All of the regulators and experts in different countries have been looking at the same data on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Some pointed out that they were uncomfortable about how Oxford-AstraZeneca started off first with younger volunteers to get results as quickly as possible. People aged over 65 only joined the trial in October 2020. This explains why on 27th January 2021, Germany's vaccine committee based at the Robert Koch Institute, suggested that AstraZeneca's Covid jab should only be given to people aged under 65. The committee argued that there was "insufficient data" for the effectiveness of the vaccine in those over 65. (137)

Germany's disease control agency pointed out only 6% of participants in the trials were over 65, with 341 of them receiving a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 319 receiving a placebo. In an interview with the Italian newspaper la Repubblica, the AstraZeneca chief executive, Pascal Soriot, defended the low number of older participants in the Oxford trials, saying: "They didn't want to vaccinate older people until they had accumulated a lot of safety data in the 18 to 55 group." He added that while there was less data from older adults involved in the trials, AstraZeneca said early figures were promising. "Preliminary efficacy data in older adults supports the importance of this vaccine for use in this population." (138)

The UK has been criticised for approving the use of Covid-19 vaccines before it was clear that they were effective in protecting elderly people. However, it was the one area where it can claim it has been more successful than most other countries. By the end of January 2021 the UK has procured 247m vaccine doses from companies with positive phase 3 results: roughly 3.7 jabs per person. Canada, Chile, Australia and New Zealand are the only countries with a higher rate per head, according to data from Duke Global Health Innovation Center. (139)

It was reported on 7th February 2021 that almost 60 percent of Israel’s population has received at least one shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which confers partial immunity, and slightly more than half have received the second shot for full vaccination. Professor Galia Rahav, the head of the infectious-disease unit at Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center, claimed that by mid-February about 90 percent of Israelis over the age of 50 would be vaccinated by mid-February. Rahav added: “No other country has been as efficient about inoculating its population.” (140)

A few days later the Israeli government announced more details of its vaccination campaign. The analysis found there were 3,082,190 people who were vaccinated with a first dose between December 20, 2020, and January 31, 2021, and 1,789,836 had also received their second dose. Of the total vaccinated, 1,215,797 were above 60 years. Among the vaccinated individuals, 31,810 tested positive for Covid-19 and 1,525 were hospitalized or died. The analysis indicates there was reduction of about 28% in the number of cases for those above 60 years by day 13 after the first dose, 43% reduction between days 14 and 21, and more than 80% reduction after the second dose. The really good news is that after having the second dose it is highly effective in the older population. Overall, the analysis suggests a reduction in positive cases of 66-83% in people older than 60 years, 76-85% for those below 60 years, and 87-96% effective in preventing severe cases. (141)

(30) International Air Travel 

It was announced by Boris Johnson on 27th January 2021 that UK travellers will be interrogated at the border on their reasons for going abroad. He confirmed that British citizens returning from high-risk countries must quarantine in hotels at their own expense. Speaking in the House of Commons, Johnson said the government had already banned all travel from 22 countries where there was a risk of known variants, including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations. "I can announce that we will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in government-provided accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days without exception."  (142)

Scientists expressed some dismay at the policy. Professor Devi Sridhar, the chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said there would still be major gaps in the UK's defences. "It has to apply to all arrivals, or no countries. We know people will just transit and connect in other airports to avoid quarantine," she said. "The UK tried this with screening from China last February and March, but the seeding came from Spain, Italy and France. We need to learn that lesson. It would be a shame for the UK to vaccinate a bulk of the population and just reimport a strain our vaccines aren't as effective against." Christina Pagel, a professor of operational research at University College London and a member of the Independent Sage group of experts, said the policy would be "enough to damage the economy but not nearly enough to be effective against Covid". (143)

The Independent SAGE group has pointed out: "The UK has been unusual in the minimal extent to which it has curbed personal travel in order to restrict the transfer of the virus between communities or countries. Although a restriction has been placed on most passengers travelling into the UK the restriction, for the most part, been confined to a requirement to self-isolate unsupervised in a location of the traveller's choosing for a period after arrival. The large number of travellers involved and the lack of routine checks on those who are supposed to be self-isolating has meant that it has been, in effect, voluntary rather than compulsory. The poorly functioning self-isolation system is also undermined by the very large number of exemptions that are available under the current government guidance. There are a total of 58 different categories of people who are, or have been, exempt to a greater or lesser degree from the requirement to self-isolate. These include company executives, bus and coach drivers, and people competing to run the National Lottery."

The Independent SAGE report suggested that the existing system of, in effect, voluntary self-isolation of international arrivals is replaced as a matter of urgency by a managed isolation system which will ensure that the full period of isolation is completed without putting people at risk. This system should include the following components: (1) Prior agreement from the traveller that, on arrival, they will undertake a period of managed isolation under official supervision; (2) Prior notification to the border authorities of the intention to travel to the UK; (3) Production of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken not more than three days prior to the date of departure from country of origin, together with a further test on arrival; (4) The costs of managed supervision would be met by the traveller. Financial assistance would be available to UK citizens who were able to show that their travel was nonoptional and that they lacked the means to afford managed isolation." (144)

A week after he made his initial statement Boris Johnson told the House of Commons on 3rd February, 2021, that he had not finalized plans for quarantine hotels for people arriving from Covid-19 hotspots. The following day vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "The quarantine is being operationalised and will play a part of this overall strategy and the secretary of state for health (Matt Hancock) will detail next week the operational elements of that policy." However, BWH Hotel Group chief executive Rob Paterson said he is still "yet to understand exactly what protocols are required of the hotels". Speaking to Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "I think in any normal company if you went out and announced a programme nationally, and you hadn't thought about how you were going to plan that, and you hadn't spoken to the people involved, I'm not sure I'd have a job if I did that in my company. To this day we simply haven't heard anything, despite multiple offers." (145)

(31) Deaths from Covid-19

On 26 th January it was reported that the UK's Covid-19 death toll had officially totalled more than 100,000.  The reality is the true number of fatalities to date will likely be even higher, due to the delay in reporting and publishing the numbers, and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested the UK was reaching the 100,000 mark as early as mid-January. It has been pointed out: "The statistics are grim, on paper, and devastating for the families impacted. But what is particularly upsetting is that more than half of those who died with the virus did so between November and January. This means the Government had nine months, between the initial spread of the virus in the UK in March and the considerable spike in late-Autumn, to adopt policies to protect the public. Had it done so effectively, tens of thousands of lives may have been saved. This takes away any sense of inevitability about the tragic death toll." Dr Amitava Banerjee, associate professor in clinical data science at University College, London, has argued the Government ignored evidence and advice early on that could have saved lives and contained the pandemic. "We can't lie and say we didn't know in April, May, or June some of the things that would have reduced this death toll by tens of thousands, if not more." (146)

Critical Care Beds in Europe
Excess Deaths registered during the Pandemic

International comparisons of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths can be misleading, partly because how COVID-19 deaths are recorded differs across countries. The Statista website gives daily figures for every country per million population. On 4th February 2021, it reported that Belgium had the worst record in the world with 185.37 deaths per million population. Slovenia was in second place with 171.28 and the UK in third place with 162.77 per million population. (147) However, Belgium (49 daily increase) and Slovenia (106 daily increase) whereas in the UK we are showing a daily increase of 1,322. (148)

Belgium has had notable success in reducing the disease's spread since 30 October, when a second national lockdown was implemented with no provisions made for a let-up over the Christmas period, unlike in the UK. Only essential shops have remained open, just one visitor from outside a household has been permitted, face masks are mandatory and 10pm night-time curfews have been strictly policed. As a result, from being the European country with the highest rate of infections in September, Belgium "is now one of the countries with the lowest contamination rate". (149)

Our figures are bad in comparison with other European countries like Denmark (340), Finland (116), Norway (101), Greece (526), Ireland (601), Germany (629), Netherlands (775) and Austria (835). Some countries are doing extremely well per million population: New Zealand (5), Singapore (5), Cuba (17), South Korea (26), Australia (35) and Japan (40). All these countries took action early in the pandemic. (150)

Excess deaths is a better measure than Covid-19 deaths of the pandemic's total mortality. It measures the additional deaths in a given time period compared to the number usually expected, and does not depend on how Covid-19 deaths are recorded. As Dr Phil Hammond points out: "It (excess deaths) encompasses not just how well we managed to control infection and treat Covid-19, but also how we have promoted public health and kept other services open to treat cancer, heart disease, stroke, mental illness, etc. Unsurprisingly, countries with the lowest excess deaths have also suffered the least economic, educational and psychological harm."  (151)

Excess Mortality on 2020
Excess Mortality on 2020

EuroMOMO, is a network of epidemiologists who collect weekly reports on deaths from all causes in 24 European countries, covering 290m people. "These figures show that, compared with a historical baseline of 2009-19, Europe has suffered some deadly flu seasons since 2016�but that the death toll this year from covid-19 is far greater. Overall, the number of excess deaths across the continent since March is about 170,000. Though most of those victims have been older than 65, the number of deaths among Europeans aged 45-64 was 40% higher than usual in early April".  (152) According to EuroMOMO there has been a very substantial excess mortality in some countries, while other countries such as Germany, Denmark and Norway are seeing normal mortality levels. (153)

Veena Raleigh, Senior Fellow at The King's Fund said on 15 th December 2020: "With more than 71,000 excess deaths in England and Wales since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the death statistics for this year are truly sobering. If current trends continue, the total excess death toll for 2020 could exceed 80,000, very likely leading to a significant fall in life expectancy in 2020… While many European countries are also seeing a spike in infections, the UK has had a higher rate of excess deaths than many. The lessons of the past must be learned to keep the toll of the pandemic on families, the NHS and the economy to a minimum until the vaccine has been rolled out to enough people to protect the population." (154)

The BBC reported in January 2021: "The Covid pandemic has caused excess deaths to rise to their highest level in the UK since World War Two. There were close to 697,000 deaths in 2020 - nearly 85,000 more than would be expected based on the average in the previous five years. This represents an increase of 14% - making it the largest rise in excess deaths for more than 75 years…. The data is only available until November - so the impact of deaths in December have not yet been taken into account - but it shows the death rate at that stage was at its highest in England since 2008." (155)

John Simkin (8th February, 2021, updated 15th February)


(1) Keith Feiling, The Life of Neville Chamberlain (1970) pages 432-442

(2) YouGov, Boris Johnson Approval Rating (18th January 2021)

(3) Kiran Bowry, Fair Observer (4th November 2020)

(4) The Observer (10th January 2021)

(5) John Simkin, Why the coronavirus (Covid-19) will probably kill a higher percentage of people in the UK than any other country in Europe. (12th March, 2020 updated 17th March, 2020)

(6) John Simkin, Why so many people in the UK have died of Covid-19 (15th May, 2020)

(7) Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (various dates)

(8) Sarah Knapton, The Daily Telegraph (14th April, 2020)

(9) Harry Davies, David Pegg and Felicity Lawrence, The Guardian (12th April, 2020)

(10) Channel 4 Investigations Team, Revealed: PPE stockpile was out-of-date when coronavirus hit UK (7th May 2020)

(11) Michael Marmot, Post Covid-19, we Must Build Back Fairer (15th December 2020)

(12) Noam Chomsky, Privatization (6th May, 2014)

(13) Harry Davies, The Guardian (22nd April, 2020)

(14) Office for National Statistics, How does UK healthcare spending compare with other countries? (29th August, 2019)

(15) Harry Lambert, The New Statesman (16th March, 2020)

(16) Harry Davies, David Pegg and Felicity Lawrence, The Guardian (12th April, 2020)

(17) Dr Phil Hammond, Private Eye (22nd January – 4th February 2021) page 8

(18) Constantine Eckner, The Spectator (6th April, 2020)

(19) Susie Orbach, The Guardian (7th May, 2020)

(20) Dr Phil Hammond, Private Eye (22nd January – 4th February 2021) page 8

(21) Becky Brickwood, NHS Staffing Crisis (14th February 2020)

(22) Anne Gulland, The Daily Telegraph (28th February, 2020)

(23) Harry Lambert, The New Statesman (16th March, 2020)

(24) Anne Gulland, The Daily Telegraph (28th February, 2020)

(25) Sam Hancock, The Independent (29th December, 2020)

(26) Rowena Mason, The Guardian (5th May, 2020)

(27) Tomas Pueyo, Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now (13th March, 2020)

(28) Richard Horton, Twitter (10th March 2020)

(29) Jack Peat, The London Economic (11th March, 2020)

(30) The Belfast Telegraph (14th September, 2020)

(31) Max Hastings, The Guardian (24th June 2019)

(32) Liam Thorp, The Liverpool Echo (12th March, 2020)

(33) Independent Sage Report 31 (15th January 2021)

(34) Robert Peston, The Spectator (12th March 2020)

(35) Graham Medley, BBC Newsnight (13 th March, 2020)

(36) Gareth Davies, The Daily Telegraph (15th March, 2020)

(37) Stephanie Cockcroft, The Evening Standard (15th March, 2020)

(38) William Hanage, The Guardian (15th March, 2020)

(39) Michael Rosen, unpublished letter to The Guardian (22nd January 2021)

(40) Tom Coburg, The Canary (26th April, 2020)

(41) Nicola Davis, The Guardian (5th May, 2020)

(42) George Parker and Camilla Hodgson, Financial Times (5 May 2020)

(43) F. Douglas Scutchfield, Principles of Public Health Practice (2003) page 71

(44) Juliette Garside and Joseph Smith, The Guardian (4th November 2020)

(45) Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies: Report 19 (16th October, 2020)

(46) George Monbiot, The Guardian (13th January, 2021)

(47) Rachel Reeves, The Guardian (8th February, 2021)

(48) The Guardian (20th March 2020)

(49) BBC News (10th June 2020)

(50) Peter Walker, The Guardian (22nd March, 2020)

(51) ITV News (25th May, 2020)

(52) Chris Curtis, How Dominic Cummings' lockdown travels changed public opinion (29th May, 2020)

(53) ITV News (24th May 2020)

(54) Jane Dalton, The Independent (26th May, 2020)

(55) The Lancet (15th August, 2020)

(56) Simon Murphy, The Guardian (15th December 2020)

(57) Peter Hitchens, The Mail on Sunday (22nd March 2020)

(58) Peter Hitchens, The Mail on Sunday (2nd May 2020)

(59) Peter Hitchens, The Mail on Sunday (30th May 2020)

(60) Peter Hitchens, The Mail on Sunday (12th September 2020)

(61) Peter Hitchens, The Mail on Sunday (14 th November 2020)

(62) Ian Irvine, The Independent (23rd October 2011)

(63) Lord Jonathan Sumption, The World at One (30th March 2020)

(64) Lord Jonathan Sumption, The Spectator (30th March 2020)

(65) The Daily Telegraph (10th September 2020)

(66) Great Barrington Declaration (5th October 2020)

(67) Ian Sample, The Guardian (7th October 2020)

(68) The Daily Mail (8th October, 2020)

(69) Toby Young, The Spectator (17th October 2020)

(70) Christopher Hope, The Daily Telegraph (1st November, 2020)

(71) Michael Marmot, Post Covid-19, We Must Build Back Fairer (15th December 2020)

(72) Yes, patients were discharged to care homes without Covid-19 tests (16 th June 2020)

(73) Office for National Statistics (5th June 2020)

(74) Jamie Grierson, The Guardian (5th August, 2020)

(75) Heather Stewart and Peter Walker, The Guardian (15th January, 2021)

(76) European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Using face masks in the community - Reducing COVID-19 transmission from potentially asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people through the use of face masks (8 April 2020)

(77) BBC News (5th June, 2020)

(78) Roy Anderson, The Independent (5th October, 2020)

(79) Marcus Fysh, Twitter (25 th August, 2020)

(80) Greg Heffer, Sky News (29th August 2020)

(81) The Daily Telegraph (10th November, 2020)

(82) Jon Craig, Sky News (11th November, 2020)

(83) Archie Bland, The Guardian (15th January, 2021)

(84) Larry Elliott, The Guardian (13th October 2020)

(85) George Monbiot, The Guardian (13th January, 2021)

(86) BBC News (25th June, 2025)

(87) David Mercer, Sky News (25th November, 2020)

(88) Alex Hern, The Guardian (30th October 2020)

(89) The Financial Times (17th July, 2020)

(90) Reuters (16th September, 2020)

(91) Statement from the Prime Minister Office (28th September 2020)

(92) Joe Murphy, The Evening Standard (22 nd September 2020)

(93) BBC News (8th August 2020)

(94) The Lancet (3rd August, 2020)

(95) Adam Vaughan, The New Scientist (3rd August 2020)

(96) The Daily Mirror (15th August 2020)

(97) BBC News (13th November 2020)

(98) The Daily Mirror (17th December, 2020)

(99) Harrison Jones, The Metro (25th January, 2020)

(100) Peter Walker, The Guardian (23rd November, 2020)

(101) The Times (4th November 2020)

(102) BBC News (11th November 2020)

(103) Sky News (21st December 2020)

(104) Tim Loughton, The House of Commons (1 st December, 2020)

(105) BBC: How many cases and deaths in your area? (12th January, 2021)  

(106) Tim Wyatt, The Independent (19th November, 2020)

(107) Sally Warren, Covid-19 has exposed the 'stark inequalities' that exist in our society (2nd June, 2020)

(108) Billy Palmer, Covid-19 kills people in the most deprived areas at double the rate of those in the most affluent (6th May 2020)

(109) Polly Toynbee, The Guardian (14th January, 2021)

(110) Michael Marmot, Post Covid-19, we Must Build Back Fairer (15th December 2020)

(111) The Independent SAGE Report 33 (28th January 2021)

(112) Polly Toynbee, The Guardian (14th January, 2021)

(113) Sean Coughlan, BBC News (19th April 2020)

(114) Donna Ferguson and Michael Savage, The Guardian (7th June, 2020)

(115) Donna Ferguson and Aaron Walawalkar, The Guardian (24 th October, 2020)

(116) James Meikle, The Guardian (30th November 1999)

(117) Lorraine Dearden and Christine Farquharson, Free school meals for all primary pupils (9th May 2017)

(118) Sally Weale and Richard Adams, The Guardian (21st October, 2020)

(119) Hannah Richardson, BBC News (19th April 2020)

(120) Adam Forrest, The Independent (13th January 2021)

(121) The Guardian (12th January 2021)

(122) William D. Roberts, er al, The Journal of Infectious Diseases (March 2006)

(123) Trevor Drew and Rob Grenfell, Why the WHO Says a Coronavirus Vaccine is 18 Months Away (14 th February, 2020)

(124) The New York Times (2nd May 2020)

(125) China Morning Post (26th September 2020)

(126) The New York Times (24th November, 2020)

(127) BBC News (2nd December, 2020)

(128) Natalie Grover, The Guardian (10 th November, 2020)

(129) William Park, Why older people are harder to vaccinate (14th October, 2020)

(130) Deborah Dunn-Walters, The Guardian (26th January 2021)

(131) Sam Meredith, CNBC News (4 th January 2021)

(132) Holly Ellyatt, CNBC News (1st January 2021)

(133) Elisabeth Mahase, The British Medical Journal (22nd January 2021)

(134) Molly Blackall, The Guardian (23rd January, 2021)

(135) BBC News (5th January 2021)

(136) Deborah Dunn-Walters, The Guardian (26th January 2021)

(137) BBC News (27th January 2021)

(138) Philip Oltermann, The Guardian (28th January 2021) 

(139) The Guardian (29th January 2021)

(140) Noga Tarnopolsky, Israel Is the World’s Most Vaccinated Country (7th February, 2021)

(141) Lakshmi Supriya, How effective has the COVID-19 vaccination program been in Israel? (12th February, 2021)

(142) Boris Johnson, speech in the House of Commons (27th January 2021)

(143) The Guardian (27th January, 2021)

(144) Independent SAGE Report 31 (15th January 2021)

(145) Ian Collier, Sky News (4th February 2021)

(146) Chloe Chaplain, Covid deaths: Arrogance in Westminster and failure to act decisively led to tragic death toll (28th January, 2021)

(147) Statista: Coronavirus Deaths Worldwide per-million Inhabitants (4th February, 2021)

(148) Worldometer Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic (4th February, 2021)

(149) Daniel Boffey, The Guardian (25th January, 2021)

(150) Statista: Coronavirus Deaths Worldwide per-million Inhabitants (4th February, 2021)

(151) Dr Phil Hammond, Private Eye (22nd January – 4th February 2021) page 8

(152) The Economist (5th January 2021)

(153) EuroMOMO, Substantial increased excess mortality seen in Europe (14th January 2021)

(154) Veena Raleigh, The King's Fund: Excess Deaths (15th December, 2020)

(155) BBC News (12th January, 2021)


Previous Posts

The Covid-19 Pandemic: An Outline for a Public Inquiry (4th February, 2021)

Why West Ham did not become the best team in England in the 1960s (24th December, 2000)

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Tapes and the John F. Kennedy Assassination (9th November, 2020)

It is Important we Remember the Freedom Riders (11th August, 2020)

Dominic Cummings, Niccolò Machiavelli and Joseph Goebbels (12th July, 2020)

Why so many people in the UK have died of Covid-19 (14th May, 2020)

Why the coronavirus (Covid-19) will probably kill a higher percentage of people in the UK than any other country in Europe.. (12th March, 2020 updated 17th March)

Mandy Rice Davies and Christine Keeler and the MI5 Honey-Trap (29th January, 2020)

Robert F. Kennedy was America's first assassination Conspiracy Theorist (29th November, 2019)

The Zinoviev Letter and the Russian Report: A Story of Two General Elections (24th November, 2019)

The Language of Right-wing Populism: Adolf Hitler to Boris Johnson (11th October, 2019)

The Political Philosophy of Dominic Cummings and the Funding of the Brexit Project (15th September, 2019)

What are the political lessons to learn from the Peterloo Massacre? (19th August, 2019)

Crisis in British Capitalism: Part 1: 1770-1945 (9th August, 2019)

Richard Sorge: The Greatest Spy of the 20th Century? (29th July, 2020)

The Death of Bernardo De Torres (26th May, 2019)

Gas Masks in the Second World War killed more people than they saved (9th May, 2019)

Did St Paul and St Augustine betray the teachings of Jesus? (20th April, 2019)

Stanley Baldwin and his failed attempt to modernise the Conservative Party (15th April, 2019)

The Delusions of Neville Chamberlain and Theresa May (26th February, 2019)

The statement signed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (20th January, 2019)

Was Winston Churchill a supporter or an opponent of Fascism? (16th December, 2018)

Why Winston Churchill suffered a landslide defeat in 1945? (10th December, 2018)

The History of Freedom Speech in the UK (25th November, 2018)

Are we heading for a National government and a re-run of 1931? (19th November, 2018)

George Orwell in Spain (15th October, 2018)

Anti-Semitism in Britain today. Jeremy Corbyn and the Jewish Chronicle (23rd August, 2018)

Why was the anti-Nazi German, Gottfried von Cramm, banned from taking part at Wimbledon in 1939? (7th July, 2018)

What kind of society would we have if Evan Durbin had not died in 1948? (28th June, 2018)

The Politics of Immigration: 1945-2018 (21st May, 2018)

State Education in Crisis (27th May, 2018)

Why the decline in newspaper readership is good for democracy (18th April, 2018)

Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party (12th April, 2018)

George Osborne and the British Passport (24th March, 2018)

Boris Johnson and the 1936 Berlin Olympics (22nd March, 2018)

Donald Trump and the History of Tariffs in the United States (12th March, 2018)

Karen Horney: The Founder of Modern Feminism? (1st March, 2018)

The long record of The Daily Mail printing hate stories (19th February, 2018)

John Maynard Keynes, the Daily Mail and the Treaty of Versailles (25th January, 2018)

20 year anniversary of the Spartacus Educational website (2nd September, 2017)

The Hidden History of Ruskin College (17th August, 2017)

Underground child labour in the coal mining industry did not come to an end in 1842 (2nd August, 2017)

Raymond Asquith, killed in a war declared by his father (28th June, 2017)

History shows since it was established in 1896 the Daily Mail has been wrong about virtually every political issue. (4th June, 2017)

The House of Lords needs to be replaced with a House of the People (7th May, 2017)

100 Greatest Britons Candidate: Caroline Norton (28th March, 2017)

100 Greatest Britons Candidate: Mary Wollstonecraft (20th March, 2017)

100 Greatest Britons Candidate: Anne Knight (23rd February, 2017)

100 Greatest Britons Candidate: Elizabeth Heyrick (12th January, 2017)

100 Greatest Britons: Where are the Women? (28th December, 2016)

The Death of Liberalism: Charles and George Trevelyan (19th December, 2016)

Donald Trump and the Crisis in Capitalism (18th November, 2016)

Victor Grayson and the most surprising by-election result in British history (8th October, 2016)

Left-wing pressure groups in the Labour Party (25th September, 2016)

The Peasant's Revolt and the end of Feudalism (3rd September, 2016)

Leon Trotsky and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party (15th August, 2016)

Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England (7th August, 2016)

The Media and Jeremy Corbyn (25th July, 2016)

Rupert Murdoch appoints a new prime minister (12th July, 2016)

George Orwell would have voted to leave the European Union (22nd June, 2016)

Is the European Union like the Roman Empire? (11th June, 2016)

Is it possible to be an objective history teacher? (18th May, 2016)

Women Levellers: The Campaign for Equality in the 1640s (12th May, 2016)

The Reichstag Fire was not a Nazi Conspiracy: Historians Interpreting the Past (12th April, 2016)

Why did Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst join the Conservative Party? (23rd March, 2016)

Mikhail Koltsov and Boris Efimov - Political Idealism and Survival (3rd March, 2016)

Why the name Spartacus Educational? (23rd February, 2016)

Right-wing infiltration of the BBC (1st February, 2016)

Bert Trautmann, a committed Nazi who became a British hero (13th January, 2016)

Frank Foley, a Christian worth remembering at Christmas (24th December, 2015)

How did governments react to the Jewish Migration Crisis in December, 1938? (17th December, 2015)

Does going to war help the careers of politicians? (2nd December, 2015)

Art and Politics: The Work of John Heartfield (18th November, 2015)

The People we should be remembering on Remembrance Sunday (7th November, 2015)

Why Suffragette is a reactionary movie (21st October, 2015)

Volkswagen and Nazi Germany (1st October, 2015)

David Cameron's Trade Union Act and fascism in Europe (23rd September, 2015)

The problems of appearing in a BBC documentary (17th September, 2015)

Mary Tudor, the first Queen of England (12th September, 2015)

Jeremy Corbyn, the new Harold Wilson? (5th September, 2015)

Anne Boleyn in the history classroom (29th August, 2015)

Why the BBC and the Daily Mail ran a false story on anti-fascist campaigner, Cedric Belfrage (22nd August, 2015)

Women and Politics during the Reign of Henry VIII (14th July, 2015)

The Politics of Austerity (16th June, 2015)

Was Henry FitzRoy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, murdered? (31st May, 2015)

The long history of the Daily Mail campaigning against the interests of working people (7th May, 2015)

Nigel Farage would have been hung, drawn and quartered if he lived during the reign of Henry VIII (5th May, 2015)

Was social mobility greater under Henry VIII than it is under David Cameron? (29th April, 2015)

Why it is important to study the life and death of Margaret Cheyney in the history classroom (15th April, 2015)

Is Sir Thomas More one of the 10 worst Britons in History? (6th March, 2015)

Was Henry VIII as bad as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin? (12th February, 2015)

The History of Freedom of Speech (13th January, 2015)

The Christmas Truce Football Game in 1914 (24th December, 2014)

The Anglocentric and Sexist misrepresentation of historical facts in The Imitation Game (2nd December, 2014)

The Secret Files of James Jesus Angleton (12th November, 2014)

Ben Bradlee and the Death of Mary Pinchot Meyer (29th October, 2014)

Yuri Nosenko and the Warren Report (15th October, 2014)

The KGB and Martin Luther King (2nd October, 2014)

The Death of Tomás Harris (24th September, 2014)

Simulations in the Classroom (1st September, 2014)

The KGB and the JFK Assassination (21st August, 2014)

West Ham United and the First World War (4th August, 2014)

The First World War and the War Propaganda Bureau (28th July, 2014)

Interpretations in History (8th July, 2014)

Alger Hiss was not framed by the FBI (17th June, 2014)

Google, Bing and Operation Mockingbird: Part 2 (14th June, 2014)

Google, Bing and Operation Mockingbird: The CIA and Search-Engine Results (10th June, 2014)

The Student as Teacher (7th June, 2014)

Is Wikipedia under the control of political extremists? (23rd May, 2014)

Why MI5 did not want you to know about Ernest Holloway Oldham (6th May, 2014)

The Strange Death of Lev Sedov (16th April, 2014)

Why we will never discover who killed John F. Kennedy (27th March, 2014)

The KGB planned to groom Michael Straight to become President of the United States (20th March, 2014)

The Allied Plot to Kill Lenin (7th March, 2014)

Was Rasputin murdered by MI6? (24th February 2014)

Winston Churchill and Chemical Weapons (11th February, 2014)

Pete Seeger and the Media (1st February 2014)

Should history teachers use Blackadder in the classroom? (15th January 2014)

Why did the intelligence services murder Dr. Stephen Ward? (8th January 2014)

Solomon Northup and 12 Years a Slave (4th January 2014)

The Angel of Auschwitz (6th December 2013)

The Death of John F. Kennedy (23rd November 2013)

Adolf Hitler and Women (22nd November 2013)

New Evidence in the Geli Raubal Case (10th November 2013)

Murder Cases in the Classroom (6th November 2013)

Major Truman Smith and the Funding of Adolf Hitler (4th November 2013)

Unity Mitford and Adolf Hitler (30th October 2013)

Claud Cockburn and his fight against Appeasement (26th October 2013)

The Strange Case of William Wiseman (21st October 2013)

Robert Vansittart's Spy Network (17th October 2013)

British Newspaper Reporting of Appeasement and Nazi Germany (14th October 2013)

Paul Dacre, The Daily Mail and Fascism (12th October 2013)

Wallis Simpson and Nazi Germany (11th October 2013)

The Activities of MI5 (9th October 2013)

The Right Club and the Second World War (6th October 2013)

What did Paul Dacre's father do in the war? (4th October 2013)

Ralph Miliband and Lord Rothermere (2nd October 2013)