AS the nation marked the anniversary of the UK going into its first lockdown, I observed a minute’s silence for those who lost their lives to this dreadful virus. My thoughts are with bereaved family, loved ones and friends across Warwick, Leamington, Whitnash and surrounding villages.
It is essential to truly honour the memories of those who died by learning from the mistakes of the past.
A year on, we should remember that Imperial College London estimated the government could have saved 20,000 lives had it locked down a week earlier last March. This is the same number of lost lives it claimed would be a good outcome at the beginning of the pandemic. Yet here we are a year later approaching 130,000.
Our nation’s foremost scientists, supported by the Labour party, called on government to lockdown earlier than it did on three separate occasions – advice which, if heeded, could have saved tens of thousands of lives.
More recent research from the Resolution Foundation estimates government’s late winter lockdown could have caused up to 27,000 unnecessary deaths.
I hope people remember that at the beginning of the pandemic I called for test and trace to be localised and to be run by the NHS, which has been shown to be successful in various local authorities such as Sheffield – in stark contrast to the system run by private firm Serco.
Since last March I have been calling for FFP3-grade PPE to be distributed to all NHS staff, social care and key workers. They are still waiting.
Had there not been PPE shortages or a failed test and trace system, think of how many lives could have been saved.
A death toll of nearly 130,000 and the fifth highest death rate per 100,000 people in the world represents an unmitigated disaster and needless loss of life – including more than 1,200 in Warwickshire.
It must not be forgotten. Victims must not be forgotten – and their lives should be celebrated.
Last week, we also witnessed a watershed moment in this nation’s history. Conservative MPs voted against a Labour amendment to introduce laws preventing violence to women. They also voted for legislation that will deny you the right to protest.
The Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is attacking our most fundamental civil liberties and our right to protest. Under the legislation, a single person holding a placard is now ‘a protest’ and can be shut down if they make enough noise.
These protests are moments of community, solidarity and real democracy. We must not allow the government to take that away from us.
See you at the next protest.
And lastly, Sarah Everard’s death has firmly imprinted the issue of male violence against women in the public consciousness. It is my firm belief that we must not let this moment pass without action. It should be the final straw. Educate boys and men. It is up to all men to ensure women no longer live in fear of violence.