Covid-19 five tests: By sleight of hand, the government seems to be trying to remove the spotlight from testing and PPE issues


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You would have thought that the government’s five tests for moderating the lockdown have stayed the same, wouldn’t you?

Well, think again.

Comparing Dominic Raab’s reading of the five tests on Tuesday with his original announcement of them on April 16th, there is at least one significant difference:

Goal 1.
May 5th: “We must continue to boost NHS capacity, so that the NHS cannot be overwhelmed”
April 16th: “We must protect the NHS’s ability to cope. We must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK. The NHS staff have been incredible. We must continue to support them as much as we can.”
COMPARISON: Slightly different words – same meaning.

Goal 2.
May 5th: “We need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the number of deaths”
April 16th: “We need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from coronavirus so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak.”
COMPARISON: Slightly different words – same meaning.

Goal 3.
May 5th: “We must see further reductions in the rate of infection to manageable levels, across all different areas and settings”
April 16th: “We need to have reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.”
COMPARISON: Slightly different words – same meaning.

Goal 4.
May 5th: “We must be confident that the NHS will be able to cope with future demands, including as a result of any changes that we make to existing measures or indeed any new measures we might wish to take”
April 16th: “We need to be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.”
COMPARISON: The specific mention of testing and PPE has been dropped.

Goal 5.
May 5th: “We need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that could then overwhelm the NHS”
April 16th: “We need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS.”
COMPARISON: IDENTICAL

I may be being picky and subject to cabin fever here, but to my mind, by taking out the specific mention of testing and PPE, goal 4 has become almost identical to goal 5.

I wonder why the government seems to be trying to take the spotlight off testing and PPE by using sleight of hand in how they recite the five tests?

(I note that the slides issued by 10 Downing Street still mention PPE and testing.)

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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12 Comments

  • R A Underhill 7th May '20 - 9:54am

    After the resignation of an adviser yesterday the Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the PM Boris Johnson should be considering whether their obvious failure to follow social distancing affects their current status in government.
    The Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer should consider why he did not ask this question at PMQs yesterday 6/5/2020.
    One Lib Dem MP asked a question, which is not reported here on LDV, nor is the answer.
    The previous Health Secretary, whom Theresa May tried to dismiss, persuaded her to include Social Care in his Job Title. He is now the Chairman of the relevant Select Committee and might be considered by the current PM for inclusion in the Cabinet, having come second in the Tory leadership election after the then MPs had made their choices, possibly with help from Boris Johnson’s campaign.

  • The complexity of setting up the testing system and the little! ? use of them. shows in the media the lack of use in the hysteria about them in the press. PPE has been a major disaster in the Govnts supplying of and past stocks where the budget was cut by 40% which has put them in a bad light. Eliminate these from media coverage and the ability to cope looks better. Plus they can buy time to stock up PPE for the future etc and say look how good we are doing.

  • R.A. Underhill “The Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer should consider why he did not ask this question at PMQs yesterday 6/5/2020.”.

    Having watched PMQ’s yesterday, I thought Keir Starmer skilfully, politely and forensically took Boris Johnson apart on the big issues without having to stoop into personalities. Try reading the Daily telegraph report of it for a careful appreciation of what really happened.

  • Well spotted, Paul. If we work back from goal 5 – avoiding a second peak that overwhelm the NHS – certain things are necessary in order to achieve it. Testing, tracing and isolating are among them. The virus is much more infectious than flu, with each infected person spreading it to on average 2.5 to 3 new people. This is the exponential growth that shows up in the terrifying graphs. Avoiding a second peak means the authorities have to identify the virus spreaders and isolate them until they stop being infectious. Test, trace, isolate – the WHO’s foremost experts have been saying this loud and clear for many weeks. Otherwise the rapid spread will start up again, until there is a mass-produced vaccine. HMG can say what they like but these are the grim facts that must drive their decisions if they really mean goal 5. HMG failed to act e.g. failed to screen arrivals at airports and seaports. The CEO of Heathrow Airport pleaded for this. Countries that acted swiftly to test, trace and isolate have had few fatalities, New Zealand being a shining example. This is the good news. Exponentiality goes both ways, applying to decline as well as growth, eliminating an outbreak.

  • Barry Lofty 7th May '20 - 12:07pm

    I don’t know whether my thoughts are relevant to this post but I am really worried that the numerous mistakes that this government has made from the beginning of this crisis will be allowed to be conveniently forgotten when hopefully, the country can return to some normality. They have so many questions to answer!

  • Overall:

    Support for the economy – Good
    Support for workers – Good
    Additional capacity Nightingale – Excellent
    PPE (along with almost all countries) – Average
    Testing – Poor

  • Denis Loretto 8th May '20 - 11:32am

    The real scandal which will emerge from any future enquiry is the abject failure to prepare fully in advance for the inevitable occurrence of a pandemic like this – presumably for financial reasons. The covered up Cygnus report now emerging and a chillingly prescient BBC exercise put out in 2018 – “Contagion! The BBC Pandemic” fronted by Dr Hannah Fry (see it on YouTube now) are examples showing that no-one should have been surprised by what has now hit us. One of the worst decisions was the failure to have adequate stockpiles of PPE and the means under our own control to maintain them – rather than relying on “just in time” arrangements with suppliers abroad. Surely it was obvious that a pandemic is a world problem in the event of which all countries are going to focus on their own needs?

  • David Garlick 9th May '20 - 12:26pm

    Spot in and typical Tory action

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