Boris Johnson Goes Full-On Bolsonaro

Photograph Source: bixentro – CC BY 2.0

Its seemingly unaccountable authoritarian leader Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for his callous and irresponsible handling of Brazil’s Covid pandemic.

Last week the British prime minister Boris “BoJo” Johnson put Bolsonaro on notice: the latter would now have a serious rival when it comes to death-dealing standards and ways where Covid is concerned.

BoJo said he planned to lift almost all remaining restrictions in England on July 19 — a day dubbed “Freedom Day” by the idiot pro-Tory tabloids.

(Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own health systems.)

All English premises presently under lockdown, including pubs and nightclubs, will be able to reopen with no limits on numbers. Social distancing will cease, face masks will no longer be mandatory and fines for not wearing them will end. Masks will therefore no longer be required in English K-12 classrooms, where students remain unvaccinated. The guidance to work from home where possible will no longer be in effect.

“Individual responsibility” will now to replace the consistently flawed and incoherent government regulation.

BoJo, notorious for his U-turns, has already postponed the removal of most Covid restrictions once before, pushing the date back from June, so the political pressure is now on him from his troglodyte MPs and Tory donors.

Daily Covid cases in the UK are among the highest in the world after the Tories eased the inconsistent lockdown while the highly infectious Delta variant started to establish itself.

Government figures last Friday showed an increase of 35,707 Covid cases in the UK, the highest daily increase since January 22.

Alas for the British public, offering much fuller protection to the UK would only take a few more months.

Fraudulent politicians such as BoJo say they “follow the science”. Their pusillanimous medical advisers say their political masters must make the crucial decisions, alas based mainly on ignoring this expert advice.

BoJo is capitulating to the libertarian right-wing of his party by taking a high-risk gamble. More than 220 scientists accused him of “embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment”.

“Any strategy that tolerates high levels of infection” is “both unethical and illogical”, the medical experts wrote in a letter to the Lancet medical journal.

Sajid Javid, the new lockdown-averse health secretary (he is nicknamed “Sajid Covid” in social media), said he is prepared to let cases reach 100,000 a day because the UK’s vaccination roll-out has weakened the transmission-belt between infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.

“We can’t live in a world where the only thing that we are thinking about is Covid”, Sajid Covid told Sky News. “We have to make use of a vaccine that is thankfully working”.

Someone should remind the “health” secretary that only half Britain’s population (34 million, none of them children below the age of 16 who number 8.8 million, obviously) is fully protected with vaccines.

The vaccine roll-out was greeted with a feverish nationalistic outburst. We are world leaders, squawked BoJo. We (Brexit) Brits are the first to inoculate on a large scale, unlike those laggards who remained in the EU.

The successful vaccine roll-out had everything to do with the NHS, and little with the Tory government, which has under-resourced the NHS for more than a decade.

The effective vaccine roll-out was accompanied by an almost useless test-and-trace system.

Last summer the Tory government set up an outsourced, call-centre-based system run separately from the UK’s under-funded local public health and primary care systems.

A fortune– £37bn/$43.2bn– was spent on “consultants” with no background in healthcare (many were “media relations” specialists), unqualified test outfits (including a trucking company owned by a Tory donor), and an army of Tory cronies.

The dished-out £37bn was equivalent to a decade’s funding for the entire UK public health system.

At the same time, there was no financial support for poorer people to isolate -– the then, and now disgraced, health secretary, Matt Hancock, told a parliamentary committee that such funding would allow people to “game the system”.

What transpired is that poorer individuals gamed the test-and-trace system instead, in order to remain in work after testing positive for the virus, so they could feed their families.

Another serious concern is “long Covid”, which has already affected 2 million Brits with symptoms that have lasted for at least 12 weeks, including cardiac issues, cognitive impairment (including thinning of zones in the brain cortex involving taste and smell in these patients), and constant physical exhaustion.

The fatuous BoJo responds to all of this by posing a meaningless counterfactual: if not now, “when will we be able to return to normal?”

However, faced with a furious public reaction, BoJo sent his “vaccine minister”, Nadhim Zahawi (renowned for claiming parliamentary expenses to air-condition his horse stables), to say that people are still “expected” to wear masks in enclosed spaces despite the “Freedom Day” proclamations.

Further evidence that the government is sliding away from its “Freedom Day” hype was the advice from Public Health England that people should keep working from home, and continue to wear masks in crowded places, after “Freedom Day”.

The UK’s incoherent lockdown policies are attributed to a desire to “keep the economy open”. Alas, the evidence from other countries merely underlines this incoherence.

None of the east Asian countries who have been relatively successful in dealing with the pandemic have had nationwide lockdowns, relying instead on highly-targetted local restrictions. In 2020, China’s GDP grew by 2% and Vietnam’s by 2.9%, according to the World Bank, in contrast to the UK’s 9.9% contraction (though Brexit played a part in this contraction).

Two major sporting events have just taken place in London– Wimbledon and the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final— with no social distancing, mask-wearing made optional, and nearly full stadiums.

A surge of new infections is likely to occur as a result of these events, burdening the NHS even further as it struggles to chip away at a long backlog of postponed cancer treatments and surgeries for knee and hip replacements, and so forth.

For the foreseeable future, “Bolsonaro” Johnson seems to be doing his very best to live up to his social-media soubriquet.

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.