Public Policy Dynamics UK #8
Health and Politics in the United Kingdom
|Total COVID-19 cases:||4,398,431|
|14-day total COVID-19 cases per 100,000:||52.1|
|Total COVID-19 deaths:||127,345|
- Lobbying scandals involving several Conservative Party MPs, high-ranking civil servants, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former Prime Minister David Cameron threaten to undermine Johnson’s broad support ahead of local elections on 6 May and broader trust in the political establishment. While the David Cameron - Greensill scandal initiated outrage, further scandals involving Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson indicate a larger pattern emerging from within the Conservative Party.
- The Government has launched a new Pandemic Preparedness Partnership (PPP) earlier this week aiming at better preparing the UK to deal with any future diseases, waves of Covid-19 or novel pandemics through the faster development of vaccinations and treatments.
- The vaccination programme continues to be a success across the UK, aided by the introduction of the Moderna vaccine last week. The creation of the Antivirals Taskforce this week is set to oversee the development of new treatments for Covid-19 in time for a predicted wave of new cases in the autumn.
- UK politics has been embroiled in a series of scandals on political influence emerging over the last two weeks. It emerged that former Prime Minister David Cameron had sent private messages, and met for a private dinner, with cabinet members to lobby them to financially support the failing Greensill company. With this just one in a sea of potential scandals, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service Simon Case offered all civil servants the chance to declare any outside interests they hold beyond Whitehall. The consequences of the scandal, with enquiries to follow, are not yet fully felt with more lobbying issues being brought to light daily. The latest, and potentially most incriminating, of these scandals has come from the Prime Minister Boris Johnson after it emerged he had been privately lobbied by James Dyson to change tax regulations and Prince Mohammed Bin Salman over the takeover of Newcastle United football club.
- Although all the ministers deny any wrongdoing, the emerging pattern is becoming clearer. The Labour party have focussed on what they call “Tory Sleaze” in the most recent Prime Minister’s Questions, highlighting the ever-growing evidence against several former and current ministers, some of whom are even Cabinet members. The Greensill scandal, the questionable PPE procurement deals, and Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages are just some of the current activities that are being questioned after it emerged Simon Case had last year told Johnson to change his personal mobile number to limit direct contact to the prime minister.
- The Conservative Party are nonetheless confident recent scandals and the upcoming enquiries are not harming their recent polling successes. Through the success of the vaccination programme and the gradual unlocking of social restrictions, the Conservative Party are seeing their greatest polling results since last May. With the upcoming local and devolved elections on 6 May looking increasingly likely to hand the pro-independence parties a slight majority in Scotland, however, the Conservatives will be hoping for a better result in Wales where they are running the closest election against Welsh Labour since devolution.
- Earlier this week the Government announced the launch of its new global Pandemic Preparedness Partnership (PPP) to prepare the UK and global leaders for future pandemics to avoid the levels of disruption and mortality seen through Covid-19.. The PPP will be chaired by UK Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and will report to global leaders at June’s G7 Summit.
- The PPP will advise the UK G7 Presidency on how to meet the prime minister’s ambition to slash the time to develop and deploy high quality vaccines for new diseases from 300 to 100 days, backed by an additional £16 million in funding to support the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI’s) work on global vaccine supply. The PPP met formally for the first time this week at a two-day virtual Pandemic Preparedness Partnership Conference where they discussed methods to ensure that new vaccines could be deployed 100 days after the detection of a new threatening variant.
- 12 April marked the second stage in the relaxation of lockdown measure across England, with non-essential shops, pubs, gyms and salons just some of the businesses allowed to re-open, albeit with social distancing regulations still in place. Following the announcement that 45-49 year olds, the next group in the vaccination strategy, have been called for their first dose and that 10 million have now received both doses, the Moderna jab has been introduced in the UK to maintain the pace and scale of the vaccination programme.
- Scotland is preparing for a significant change to lockdown rules as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that non-essential shops, gyms and hospitality will be able to reopen from Monday 26 April as well as non-essential travel with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The easing of restrictions in Scotland marks a significant step for the whole of the UK with cases going down and the vaccination strategy continuing at a steady pace, with Scotland pursuing a steadier pace of unlocking. With Scotland hoping to ease restrictions again in the middle of May, alongside Wales and England, the whole of the UK could see the ‘normal’ summer that the roadmap has promised.
- The middle of May date for the next easing of lockdown restrictions also represents the date that international travel will be resumed to a select few countries on the ‘Green List’ of countries with low viral circulation. With recent developments in India and the surge in Covid-19, Boris Johnson announced that he is cancelling his upcoming trip as they are now on the red list.
- This week, the Government announced the creation of a domestic Antivirals Taskforce to oversee the identification of new treatments for Covid-19. The taskforce will search for novel antiviral medicines that can be taken at home and support their development through clinical trials to ensure they can be rolled out to patients as early as the autumn. This Taskforce has been created to prepare for the upcoming autumn, which has been predicted to see a further rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, especially with the new variants cropping up across the world. The new taskforce will sit alongside the Government’s existing Therapeutics Taskforce and will hope to prepare the UK for the coming flu season.