Tuesday briefing: Covid response ‘one of UK’s worst ever failures’ |



Top story: ‘Groupthink’ and ‘permanent crisis’Good morning. Warren Murray here with Tuesday’s highest priorities.Britain’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic was one of the UK’s worst public health failures, a landmark inquiry has found. The “fatalistic” approach of ministers and scientists exacerbated the death toll, says the report led by two former Conservative ministers. The UK fared “significantly worse” than other countries, partly due to “groupthink” and a deliberately “slow and gradualist” approach: Britain was one of the first countries to develop a test for Covid but “squandered” its lead and “converted it into one of permanent crisis”. Boris Johnson did not order a complete lockdown until 23 March 2020, two months after the government’s Sage committee of scientific advisers first met to discuss the crisis.The report comes from the Commons science and technology committee and the health and social care committee. It celebrates some aspects of the Covid response including rapidly getting vaccines and the Recovery trial identifying lifesaving treatments. But among criticisms it says it was a serious mistake to halt mass testing in March 2020 – days after the World Health Organization called for “painstaking” contact tracing and quarantine. Further criticism is levelled at poor protection in care homes, for black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and for people with learning disabilities.‘Overwhelming consensus’ – The UK public backs a carbon tax on polluting industries, higher levies on flying and grants for heat pumps, according to the biggest analysis of climate policy preferences ever published. A speed limit of 60mph on motorways and a campaign to reduce meat eating by 10% were also among the most popular measures. The public went further than the government, saying we should surpass the current carbon target by 3%. Age, location and political leaning made little difference to the “overwhelming consensus” for strong and fair climate action. The most popular policy suite meant people earning less than £22,000 would be £44 a year better off, while those with incomes between £35,000 and £53,000 would pay £195 more a year, and it was also estimated to support a million jobs by 2030. The WWF produced the report with the thinktank Demos.‘Difficult to reconcile’ – Rishi Sunak is poised to usher in cuts worth £2bn for departments tasked with meeting the Tories’ flagship “levelling up” agenda despite planning to lift the UK’s tax burden to the highest sustained level in peacetime. The IFS thinktank said areas such as local government, further education, prisons and courts that were squeezed in the 2010s could have funding cut in the autumn budget, due in two weeks’ time, which was “difficult to reconcile with the government’s stated objectives – particularly around ‘levelling up’”. The IFS said overall government spending was on track to settle at 42% of national income, about 2% higher than before the pandemic. However, it warned pressures from an ageing population meant a growing share was going towards health, while less was being left over for other areas of Whitehall spending despite Tory promises of levelling up and ending austerity.Men join up against violence – Groups led by men that work to end violence against women and girls have experienced a surge in interest from other men after the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa. The charity Beyond Equality had 150 men come forward to volunteer in the two weeks after Everard’s death; previously there were two a week. More than 80 schools booked its workshops in the past week, compared with three inquiries a week previously. Dr Daniel Guinness, the managing director of Beyond Equality, said more and more men were realising that protecting women took more than being a good person themselves. “I have never met a man who hasn’t condoned a dialogue by joking along or staying silent where misogynistic or sexist comments were made … which ultimately leads to the abuse of women.”Rutter meets the road – Rangers in Colorado have finally managed to separate a bull elk from a tyre that was stuck around its neck for two years. When they managed to track down and tranquilise the animal, the wildlife officers had to cut off its five-point antlers – presumably dealing its rutting season hopes a blow – because they couldn’t slice through the steel in the bead of the tyre.The first sighting of the elk in 2019. Photograph: CPW NE RegionWildlife officers in the Rockies say they have also seen deer, elk, moose, bears and other wildlife wearing everything from swing sets, hammocks and clotheslines to holiday lighting, laundry baskets and soccer goals.Today in Focus podcast: Dubai’s ruler and the Pegasus hackA high court judge has ruled that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum hacked the phone of his ex-wife Princess Haya using Pegasus spyware. In this episode we look at the implications of the affair.Today in FocusDubai’s ruler and the Pegasus hackSorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen https://audio.guim.co.uk/2020/05/05-61553-gnl.fw.200505.jf.ch7DW.mp3Lunchtime read: erasing AfricaThe creation of the modern, interconnected world is generally credited to European pioneers. But Africa was the wellspring for almost everything they achieved – and African lives were the terrible cost, writes Howard W French.Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon, Portugal. Photograph: Image Broker/REXSportChris Woakes has dismissed Ian Botham’s suggestion that England’s Test players had used Covid restrictions as an excuse to avoid committing to the forthcoming Ashes series. Dan Evans crashed out of the BNP Paribas Open after he let slip a set and a break lead against Diego Schwartzman, the world No 15. Tennis players have been urged to get vaccinated if they are serious about playing in next year’s Australian Open. Gareth Southgate believes a settled atmosphere with England has allowed Harry Kane to maintain his goalscoring form at international level despite the striker’s difficulties at Tottenham. Kieffer Moore’s early goal fired Wales to a 1-0 victory in Estonia which boosted their chances of securing a World Cup play-off spot.Steve Bruce is understood to be close to losing his job as Newcastle United’s manager as the club’s new Saudi Arabian power broker, Yasir al-Rumayyan, prepares to visit St James’ Park for the first time. Trevor Hemmings, owner of Championship club Preston North End as well as three Grand National winners, has died aged 86. The International Swimming Federation (Fina) has announced it will establish an integrity unit as part of a number of reforms to improve the governance, transparency and culture of the organisation. And in an interview with the Guardian, former England footballer John Barnes discusses silent pillars of prejudice and why there aren’t more black football managers.BusinessThe John Lewis retail report on key shopping trends of the past 12 months reveals shoppers “couldn’t get enough of slippers” during the pandemic. The chain now sells more than 200 styles, having increased the size of its range by a fifth. As social lives were put on hold and more people worked from home, demand for pyjamas and dressing gowns rocketed while the casualties included ties (down 75%), briefcases and makeup bags. The FTSE100 is set to shed around 0.6% this morning on the back of some heavy selling in Hong Kong as it became clear Chinese property giant Evergrande will default on fresh bond repayments of nearly $150m. The pound is on $1.359 and €1.176.The papersThe Guardian’s splash today is “UK’s Covid failings among worst in history” – with a side serving of “No 10 backs Kwarteng in cabinet spat with Sunak”. Kwarteng, the business secretary, wants more financial support for heavy industries such as steel, chemicals and ceramics that are struggling with energy costs. Sunak is sceptical about giving them taxpayers’ money – but No 10 appears to be weighing in on Kwarteng’s side, with the Times suggesting there will be “State loans for firms hit by gas price rises”.Guardian front page, 12 October 2021.The Metro has “Shamed over Covid chaos” and you can bet what that is about; the Mirror puts the same subject on the front with the headline “Deadliest of delays”. The Telegraph says “Social care tax ‘must double’ to tackle crisis”. Its picture lead is Sally Rooney reportedly not wanting her latest book published in Hebrew – the author supports a cultural boycott of Israel. The Express leads with “Don’t panic, we can fill shelves for Christmas” saying supermarkets will work hard to stock up.The Mail says “Elderly were just an afterthought” in the handling of the pandemic. And the number one story in the Financial Times is another version of that one: “Herd immunity ‘group think’ led to ‘public health failure’, MPs find”.Sign upThe Guardian Morning Briefing is delivered to thousands of inboxes bright and early every weekday. If you are not already receiving it by email, you can sign up here.For more news: www.theguardian.comGet in TouchIf you have any questions or comments about any of our newsletters please email [email protected] up to Inside Saturday to get an exclusive behind the scenes look at the top features from our new magazine delivered to your inbox every weekend



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