It’s amazing what you can find in the murkier recesses of the Internet. For instance, yesterday I read that Boris Johnson had “egged up the transmissibility of the new strain of the virus” as an excuse for cancelling Christmas. However, he overdid it — and thus accidentally scared our neighbours into closing their borders. Whoops!
Here’s this shocking revelation in full, which was supplied by Lionel Barber:
It’s pretty clear now that Johnson egged up the transmissibility of the new strain of the virus so much (to justify belated cancelling Christmas) that he ended up spooking EUropean neighbours. Classic case of not connecting message and audience(s)
— Lionel Barber (@lionelbarber) December 21, 2020
Wow! You don’t get that sort of analysis from the BBC, do you? And that’s just as well, because it’s complete nonsense.
Boris Johnson didn’t “egg up” anything. What he said on Saturday was a fair reflection of the official scientific advice from NERVTAG — The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group. Here’s the relevant document, which includes the following key statement:
At this stage our understanding of the VUI-202012/01 variant is incomplete, but neither NERVTAG nor the Government have tried to hide that fact. Almost by definition, fighting a novel pathogen means acting upon incomplete information.
One also has to ask why Boris Johnson would want to “egg up” the threat. Having staked so much credibility on the Christmas relaxation, clamping down again was not in the Government’s political interest. Moreover, the current trajectory of new infections is rather alarming enough without having to exaggerate the threat from the new variant.
Who is this Lionel Barber, anyway? A mad conspiracy theorist? A libertarian grifter? A Trumpist troll? No, none of those. He is, in fact, a pillar of the British and European establishment — and, until recently, editor of the Financial Times.
Strange, then, that he didn’t come to a more logical conclusion: i.e. that Boris Johnson issued his warning because the British people and the international community needed to hear it. If we want to control this pandemic — and prevent future pandemics — then full transparency on the part of all governments is vital.
One day, I hope that the Chinese government is held accountable for what it did and didn’t tell the world a year ago. In the mean time, western governments need to exemplify the standards we expect of others. If that is indeed what the British government has done, then it should be congratulated not carped at.