Key decisions will be subject to microscopic inspection

Governments will want to learn lessons from pandemic.

For the foreseeable future lockdown continues and at the daily briefings in Edinburgh and London the messages around social distancing and remaining at home continue to be the cornerstone of the ‘stay safe’ message.

The parallel commentary is that the strategy is working, lives are being saved, the NHS is coping and that the collective will of people will lead to an exit strategy eventually.

And yet in the last week, those in power are feeling the heat from the bereaved, the frontline workers, the care home staff, amid allegations that lives are being lost through inadequate planning and an inability to get protective clothing to everyone who needs it.

If the first two weeks of lockdown was about leaders and people marching in step to an endgame of falling infections, then week three has seen a growing critique of the stewardship of the crisis.

At an appropriate moment the gap between what politicians and health professionals tell the country at briefings with the reality of what is happening on the frontline will be analysed in forensic detail and judgements in the form of hard conclusions will be made.

Governments both north and south of the border will want to learn as much as possible about the lessons that can be learned for the future. The only questions relate to the type and the scope of the post crisis inquiry but an inquiry or inquiries there shall be.

It is still too early to rush to definitive judgements but a key area for any probe is to explore whether the road to lockdown caused lives because the UK appeared to hirple rather than enforce it when it was already apparent that this was a massive public health crisis.

Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon ultimately take the key decisions and those decisions will invariably be subject to microscopic inspection. What we don’t know is the full detail of the scientific advice that they were given from the point when there was a crisis in China to the point when widespread infection in the UK was inevitable and what that meant for combating Covid-19 in the UK..

Was the road to lockdown too slow? If it was, what held it back, scientific advice or decision paralysis?

The concerns around protective equipment, a perceived abandoning of the care home sector, pledges on testing that look over optimistic are all likely to be examined.

Pity the politician who made commitments that had no solid foundation in reality. Every word, from every minister and every chief medical officer and every scientist will be measured against several tonnes of data that will conclude whether such pledges were realistic or a long stretch in credulity.

Those charged with this examination will wade through fields of data, all the while knowing that bar graphs and charts mark people as statistics. But the loved ones of the dead, the trade unions and the professional bodies will all bring a human centric focus to deliberations.

There will be lessons for emergency planning and of the robustness of ‘systems’ to deliver for people. And there will be a long narrative of the timeline detailing why and on what basis decisions were taken.

The loss of a loved one leads to anguish but also anger if there is a feeling that the death was avoidable if ‘systems’ had reacted sooner. That raw emotion and perhaps a burning sense of injustice will demand that any inquiry shuts no door and leaves no grievance unexplored.

The people who have lost their lives deserve no less.

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