Right from the start of this pandemic crisis, the UK government has been smart enough to take shelter behind the 'fact' that all their actions (or inactions) have been shaped by advice from medical and scientific experts. We can't be wrong, government ministers have been implying, because we are acting on what the truths of science and medicine tell us. For the purposes of television and other media images, they have even had the scientific and medical big-wigs standing behind their lecterns beside the prime minister as he leans towards his people behind his and proclaims the goodness of all things Tory under Boris.
|Matt Hancock, Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty|
One of those big-wigs is Professor Chris Whitty, England's Chief Medical Officer for Health since October 2019. Chris Whitty is Professor of Physic (the term for medicine when the post was first created in 1597) at Gresham College. I came across the name of Chris Whitty in a rather round-about way when my friend, Stephen Vranch, recently recommended the online Gresham Lectures and I began investigating what was on offer.
That's how I discovered - courtesy of a Chris Whitty lecture - Potts disease of the scrotum: an historically important and now, thank goodness, unknown disease. Who suffered from this? Boy chimney sweeps. Boys as young as 4 were forced up chimneys to clean them; squamous cell carcinoma of the scrotum made its appearance when they reached puberty and had grown too big to continue their work. The Chimney Sweep Act of 1788 made parental consent a requirement and
forbade employment of those under the age of 8 - but even these restrictions were not enforced. The first effective Act did not come until 1875.
Chris Whitty tells the chilling story to effect in his lecture on 15 January 2020 - and then concludes with words that have become in themselves deadly chilling in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic that has led to so many deaths. (The Professor later showed symptoms himself and was fortunate to recover from what seems to have been a mild infection.) Here are his closing comments:
'I will comment - without drawing too many parallels - that throughout the history of the debates about what to do about child chimney sweeps, there was a very strong concern not to interfere with trade. That was the main reason why people consistently pushed back on curbing the employment and the age of chimney sweeps. And unfortunately I sometimes see parallels - fortunately not so severe - in some debates in some countries today.'
I assume, Professor Whitty, that you knew little or nothing then about what was around the corner in your own country. You could not have known, could you, how the government for which you are an official advisor would react when first confronted with the news from China of the emergence of a new and deadly virus. It is clear, however, that the Johnson-led government of the UK initially reacted by putting the interests of trade above all else. That is not how the government of New Zealand reacted as my blogposts have shown.
The question now is: How far is the UK government still acting in a way that allows the virus to spread through our population so herd immunity can be achieved before the vaccinations are available in a year and a half or so?
Skwarkbox is inclined to see the UK government as leaning towards the deliberate act rather than being simply incompetent. I am moving in that direction. What do you think after reading what follows?
Unions outraged by callous but revealing statement
(Friday 10 April 2020)
|Passport to infection|
We are working on the assessment that 80% of us, if we haven't already, will get the virus.We cannot hide away from it forever.
|Emily Maitlis - a BBC presenter breaking ranks?|
|Passengers from Madrid and New York - and no checks!|
|Matt Hancock, like Chris Whitty, developed symptoms of the virus and is now recovered. Herd Immunity OK?|
A postscript, thanks to Skwawkbox, published a few hours after this post was first issued:
Health Secretary admits to nineteen NHS staff while trying to weasel out of responsibility. The real number is far higher
31 fallen NHS heroes