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COVID-19: Tough lessons from the coronavirus crisis

On Wednesday Dominic Cummings, the former top adviser to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, testified before a committee of British parliamentarians on how the government reacted to the coronavirus as it broke some 15 months ago. Whether Cummings was motivated by revenge for having been fired by Johnson six months ago or whether it was to serve the public good, his testimony has unleashed a firestorm at Westminster.

Cummings testified that the government was woefully unprepared for the extent of the crisis, Johnson himself failed to realise the full extent of the pandemic and was initially somewhat flippant over its lethality and mismanaged the early days by believing that herd immunity would triumph.

Johnson and his aides have repeatedly denied that the Prime Minister made such comment.

Cummings was also scathing of Health Secretary Matt Hancock, accusing him of lying multiple times and being incompetent for his handling of a shortage of personal protective equipment.

There is no doubt that Cummings testimony will fuel calls for an already announced public inquiry into the pandemic that is scheduled for next year, to instead be brought forward. It provides immediate fuel now too to Johnson’s critics who believe the government has not been on top of its game and has sent mixed messages to the British public.

But Cummings testimony too needs to be seen in the light of a man who has an axe to grind with the current PM and his cabinet colleagues. Cummings was at the centre of power and is now an outcast, skulking from his position in the darkness of a November night.

Only a full and proper airing of all the facts will set the record straight. The UK will not be alone in looking at what went wrong – or right, as the successful vaccine rollout programme shows now.

Every nation, every responsible government will need to review their actions and learn lessons from this crisis. Indeed, as we look around the globe now, there are still nations who have failed to learn lessons during the 15 months of this pandemic. And people are dying as a result of their failings.

Hindsight does indeed 20-20 vision. But hindsight must also look at the full picture, not just through the eyes or words of a vengeful minion who himself ignored basic rules of public health and drove some 900kms and then claimed he drove on a sightseeing trip only to test his eyesight.

In truth no one knew what to expect from coronavirus. And yes, we have all learnt lessons along the way.