A big news day – 19,506 deaths so far, moving up to the 20k thought shocking several weeks ago, but also the testing website closing within hours and the revelations about the alleged independence of the government’s scientific advice source.
Amid continuing talk about ‘ramping up capacity’ for COVID19 testing, it was reported that the much trumpeted new website for key workers to book tests had temporarily closed – hours after being opened by the government. You could not make this up!
The Today programme (about 08.50 am) featured playwright David Hare’s searing verdict on the government’s COVID19 performance, criticising the lack of transparency we are owed in return for such massive disruption to our lives in the form of lockdown. Hare had and recovered from the virus and makes clear where he thinks the inadequacies lie.
Guardian parliamentary sketch writer John Crace has experienced mental ill-health for some years and has now produced this podcast – what is the covid19 crisis doing to our mental health? The ‘biggest health crisis in a generation and the enforced isolation of lockdowns is taking not just a physical toll on people but also affecting mental health’. Of course we feel for those who can’t see their families but the position of those living on their own, without partners or families, gets mentioned only halfway through, eg the effect of going so long without physical touch and not knowing when this will end. When asked what helps, most of the advice is obvious but repeating it is helpful as things could easily be missed or overlooked: the public health expert said how important ‘keeping the basics gong’ (eg for some even getting dressed), accessing online sources of help, keeping in touch with friends and family, staying connected, ‘physical distancing but not social distancing’, being part of a community, helping others and exercise, which releases ‘feel good’ endorphins. John ‘eases off on news consumption’ towards the end of the day and recognises the powerlessness we’re experiencing with COVID19, that of just not knowing when this will end and what society will look like afterwards.
This evening the Guardian broke the shocking news that Dominic Cummings, the PM’s Chief Political Adviser, is on SAGE, the committee of scientists advising the government on its COVID19 strategy, and whose membership and minutes have been kept secret. Of course this will lead to further doubts about the quality and independence of that advice. Green MP Caroline Lucas tweeted: ‘So much for “independent” scientific advice … No wonder the Government wanted to keep the membership of SAGE secret Not only that, but the group clearly needs much stronger voice for Public Health experts on the committee too’.
Again, today’s events are likely to add further to public anxiety.