As the Daily Coronavirus project has continued, I have found myself reading more and more headlines. When the pandemic first hit the UK, there was a lot of ‘solidarity’ in the general population, and the headlines across the political spectrum were quite similar. But as the death toll worsened, more data appeared about the government’s approach – and the Cummings scandal broke, solidarity started to fragment. This has meant picking the headline has become rather more difficult.
I have taken to recording several headlines in my small database, now around 80 days long, I do not always post the resultant image on social media, but when I do I have now found myself involved in online debate – usually friendly, but still clearly showing partisan divides.
Mick Yates. Our Loyal Dogs. ‘How the Government ignored its own coronavirus experts on the risks of reopening shops and schools.’ Daily Telegraph (sic). Day Seventy Six. Headline / paradox project. Leica M10. May 30th 2020.
For example, around Day 76 (May 30th) I was hearing that the UK would be doing ‘better’ in the pandemic if it wasn’t for people breaking the rules.
Possibly, but this led me to write a response on facebook, recorded here:
First, it should be noted that initially Govt & Scientists were surprised how well people stuck to ‘Stay at Home’ over the past two months – better than expected in the models. We heard that a lot at press conferences, backed with mobility data. Second, over 40% of deaths seem to relate to Care Homes where people were hardly breaking the rules (though they now, it seems, were not properly supported by Govt). Third, we are all sadly now familiar with PPE issues and lack of testing capability.
So, it would seem very hard to pin much of the UK excess death toll on ‘people doing wrong’ – especially as it tends to be young people getting the blame yet deaths skew older. Personally, I find the logic wrong.
Now, of course, we have the Cummings fiasco. He is a senior Govt figure who should lead by example. He didn’t – we did not even get an apology. Cummings’ press conference, and Johnson’s unequivocal backing of his crass story led directly to a huge drop in public trust (see the polls). We can’t blame the media for a massive government own-goal (or series of them, I should say).
Today’s message is fuzzy, Ministerial press conferences have been a mess (Sunak being the exception). And reports from all ‘sides’ in the media about government not fully following science advice make it worse.
Everyone wanted the Govt to succeed on our behalf. Public Health is like that. But it will hardly be a surprise if people ‘break’ the rules, now.
The death toll is a very sad result for a country that should have done better given the warnings, time advantage and our economic and scientific strength.
Addition: at 5pm on the 30th .. Prof Jonathan Van-Tam’s mic drop on the rules and the situation we all face.
Guardian. May 30th 2020.
Addition: 7:30pm on the 30th .. the Purbeck Police post. Rules being shattered on Dorset beach, made worse as police had to land helicopters to rescue people hurt in jumping from cliffs at Durdle Door.
Purbeck Police, Dorset, Durdle Door. May 30th 2020.
As the Government no longer provides comparisons with other countries, I find the Financial Times is an excellent data resource. Here is the latest data, both in total number of deaths and deaths per million.
Financial Times, May 30th 2020.
Financial Times, May 30th 2020.