The former Shadow Justice Secretary branded the Government’s approach to fighting coronavirus as “unmitigated disastrous”, with the death toll now edging towards 42,000 – the fifth highest in the world. He also lashed out at the lack of clarity in messaging from Downing Street over recent weeks, warning “cases are soaring again at a very worrying rate”, also attacking ministers for blaming the younger generation for a rise in coronavirus cases. Writing for the Labour list website, Mr Burgon said: “The Government’s approach to fighting coronavirus has been an unmitigated disaster, leaving us with one of the highest death tolls in the world.
“It’s heartbreaking to think that tens of thousands of lives could have been saved had we kept the death rate to the levels seen in Germany, South Korea or New Zealand.
“Cases are soaring again at a very worrying rate. Appallingly, rather than take responsibility, the Government has sought to blame young people for the rise in coronavirus infections and claim that the shortage of tests is caused by people getting tested unnecessarily.
“The current vacillating strategy and blame-shifting games can’t go on. While the government’s new ‘hands, face, space’ message and the ban on gatherings of more than six people will all help, it’s not a solution in and of itself.”
But Mr Burgion has been destroyed after suggesting the UK should adopt a “zero COVID approach” – one he claimed has been successfully implemented in countries such as China.
Richard Burgon has been mocked after suggesting the UK should copy the strategy employed by China
Thw Labour MP lashed out at the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis
He said: “Along with a number of my colleagues, I believe it’s time for a ‘zero COVID’ strategy of the kind advocated by Independent SAGE to eliminate the virus, and as other countries such as New Zealand have successfully implemented.
“If we don’t manage to get the virus under control, we’ll just continue to flit from one crisis to another.
“A zero COVID approach is the way we can return to something more like normality. But it means the emphasis must be on eliminating the virus, not living with it.
“The results of those countries pursuing a zero COVID strategy are remarkable. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s latest worldwide report, the UK had 26,000 confirmed COVID cases over the past 14 days. In contrast, New Zealand has had 90, China 316, Iceland 71, Vietnam 25 and Thailand 50.”
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Richard Burgon said ‘the results in countries pursuing a zero COVID strategy are remarkable’
One person on Twitter replied: “Richard, you’ve clearly lost the plot.
“There are 70m people in the UK and 5m in NZ, a country which, bring in the Southern Hemisphere, is in its early ‘March’, so we’ll have to see how #SARSCoV2 plays out there over the coming months, won’t we?”
Another Twitter user commented: “Richard, you must stop this nonsense.
“You can’t compare tightly packed baskets of apples with one pear. UK pop is circa 180x larger than Iceland’s. Iceland’s pop density =3 per km, UK = 275 (London 5,700).
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“Positive results are NOT cases. Cases require medical intervention.”
A third person wrote: “Richard, are you familiar with the concept of confounding variables?
“I think you’ll find there are more differences between Iceland/NZ and UK than just the COVID strategy. As for China/Vietnam, you really believe their data?”
Mr Burgon did acknowledge the challenges in the UK adopting a “zero COVID strategy”, such as significantly increasing testing levels from where they currently are, but said such a plan would place “greater emphasis on providing support to people who test positive so they can self-isolate”.
Coronavirus cases have been spiking in several parts of the UK
He added: “While the benefits of a zero COVID strategy are clear, getting there requires a radical shift in the Government’s policy focus. It means ramping up the testing levels so people can easily get a test locally and have their results back in 24 hours.
“For all the Prime Minister’s bragging at PMQs that there’s the capacity for 320,000 coronavirus tests per day, the latest figures on the government’s own website show that around 180,000 tests are being done per day. It’s simply way off what’s needed.
“The Government is now talking of ‘Operation Moonshot’. But we need solutions that are tried and tested, not more empty rhetoric.
“We can defeat this virus – but it means the Government must admit that it’s got it wrong so far, change track and go for zero COVID.
“The entire Labour movement will need to unite around zero COVID if we are to force the Government to budge.”