100,000 Deaths and a White Paper: What we need instead in Britain

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100,000 Deaths and a White Paper:
What we need instead in Britain

Colin Leys

When Imperial College’s modeller Neil Ferguson told the British government in early March 2020 that it was on course to see 250,000 deaths from COVID-19, he was widely seen as scaremongering. Now his warning looks no more than sober. The government has already taken us past the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths, more deaths per capita than any other country in the world except Czechia, and is on course for 125,000 by the end of the winter. And the government’s plans for lifting the national lockdown that began in January look likely to cost between... 32,000 and 55,000 further deaths between February and June this year.

The cost in lives has been matched by greater economic cost than almost anywhere else too: UK national income fell 9.9% in 2020, compared with 3.5% in the US, 4.8% in Japan and 5% in Germany, while China’s and Korea’s national incomes actually grew.

To cap these achievements, the government has now brought forward legislative proposals for changes in the National Health Service (NHS), to be implemented next year. It claims that its proposals “capture the learning from the pandemic and are driven by the context of a post-COVID world, which is now in reach.” In reality, they just aim to legalise the ramshackle arrangements cobbled together by Simon Stevens (Chief Executive of the NHS) in order to get around Lansley’s unworkable marketisation scheme; and they undo the one marginally benign consequence of that scheme – the formal independence of the NHS chief executive from the health secretary of the day. The real lessons of the pandemic are studiously ignored. As a response to the moral and social catastrophe we are living through, the white paper is grotesquely inept.

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