Over the last few days I have had a rather testy exchange by email with a commentator from a northern unionist background attacking my assertion that pro-union ministers in the power-sharing Executive at Stormont were risking the lives of Irish and British citizens on this island by adhering to the go-it-alone Covid-19 policies adopted by the authorities in the United Kingdom. Policies that have run against the advice of the World Health Organisation and the responses implemented across Europe (bar the Dutch at the start of this crisis and the still hold-out Swedes). The main plank of his argument was that Sinn Féin and others have “weaponised” the pandemic to try and drive a wedge between “Northern Ireland” and the UK by suggesting that the Six Counties align with the Republic’s heath policies in a “united Ireland” effort to tackle the coronavirus. My own response, obviously enough, was that London had flip-flopped through a series of frankly rogue plans to deal with the unfolding emergency and that these had proved wrong; and to the likely cost of many, many lives.
The evidence I presented was largely ignored by the correspondent in favour of repetitive accusations about the “untrustworthy” or “fractious” behaviour of Michelle O’Neill as Deputy First Minister in the north-eastern administration, the overweening influence of SF’s Dublin-based leadership coupled with the supposed machinations of the Republican Movement’s Belfast-based leadership, and various other bits of rhetorical nonsense. In fact, the writer managed to tie himself up in knots as he sought to defend the plans put in place by London over the last couple of months, contradicting some of his own points as he tried to excuse the callousness and incompetence of the Johnson-Cummings’ regime in Downing Street.
In that light note these points by Richard North, the conservative author, long-time Eurosceptic campaigner and a person with some expertise on the subject of disease. So, no “Shinnerbot”.
The government needed two goes at publishing the Covid-19 figures yesterday [Tuesday]. When they first came out, there had been 25,150 cases (up 3,009 from 22,141) and 1,651 deaths (up 367 from 1,284).
No sooner had they been absorbed, though, than the figure for deaths rose to 1,789 suggesting a truly massive hike in the day-on-day figure of over 500. But, almost in the manner of Winston Smith re-writing The Times in 1984, the day before’s figures for deaths jumped to 1,408, producing a more modest but nonetheless considerable increase of 381.
To give some indication of the scale of this jump, three weeks ago, Mrs EUReferendum and I were looking forward to a visit from our granddaughter, coming down from Scotland to stay with us for a few days. Watching the daily Covid-19 figures mount, I suggested that, if the cases topped 1,000 by the weekend, we would call the visit off.
As it turned out, the figure reached 1,061 by the Saturday, at which time 21 deaths had been recorded. From that point, we went into our own personal lockdown, which was just as well.
By now we have seen cases multiply 25-fold, and while the official death toll is short of two thousand, there are those who argue that about 25 percent more people have died, putting the number at well over the two-thousand mark.
And from the Guardian, the utter confusion caused by having a cabal of “ mathematical modellers and behavioural scientists” dictating government health policy in Britain:
Less than two weeks on from the lockdown that Johnson announced on 23 March, the original strategy, the decisions that came before and after it, and the UK’s inability to ramp up testing for NHS staff – let alone anyone else – are under unrelenting scrutiny.
Ministers have been flailing. What has emerged is a picture of confusion and uncertainty at the top, with ministers making promises they cannot keep and apparently with little comprehension of the global tussle for tests that may make it impossible for the UK to buy its way belatedly out of the problem.
The UK is now competing with every other nation to obtain the kits it needs, particularly the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which tells someone whether they have Covid-19 or not.
The Guardian has been told that presidents and prime ministers are trying to outbid each other to secure these kits and their components, which are in short supply.
As a further illustration of where the UK is at in terms of governance and competence, from RTÉ:
The British government is resisting a request by the European Union to open an office in Northern Ireland, following the closure of the European Commission’s representation in Belfast at the end of January, RTÉ News understands.
The issue has become one of the first flashpoints between Brussels and London over the implementation of protocol, according to a number of informed sources.
The EU is insisting on maintaining an office in Belfast in order to ensure the Irish protocol is being properly implemented.
However, the UK regards the request for an EU office in Northern Ireland as contrary to the letter of the Withdrawal Agreement and tantamount to an infringement of sovereignty, RTÉ News understands.
Coronavirus crisis? What crisis? It’s all about Brexit!