During the unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic, the government has put in place many vital and necessary rules in order to keep us all safe and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These rules have been, and still are, crucial when it comes to lowering COVID transmission rates and although they have changed and adapted over time (with June the 21st marking ‘freedom day’- the day where life in the UK supposedly turned back to some form of ‘normality’ with fewer restrictions and the opening of events and nightclubs), it is still incredibly important to follow the remaining rules and to wear a mask if possible. So how does it feel when government officials break the government rules designed to keep everyone safe?
After coming into contact with Sajid Javid, the recently appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who tested positive for COVID-19, both Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that they were not going to isolate due to their negative lateral flow tests. They also announced that they would be doing daily rapid tests to ensure that they did not have the virus. Although their negative lateral flow tests do act as some reassurance that neither of them have the virus, it still doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they do not have Covid. According to statistics, one in ten positive lateral flow tests in England turn out to be wrong when people retest. This means that they could be receiving false negatives when they actually do have the virus and vice versa. However, regardless of whether or not they have the virus, their actions are still largely hypocritical as they expect everyone else to follow the government guidelines whilst not following the rules themselves. It appears somewhat miraculous and far too convenient that both Johnson and Sunak were selected to participate in the pilot scheme at exactly the same time. Once again, this points to the idea of special treatment exclusively for the higher-ups. It is one rule for them, and another rule for everyone else at a time where it is especially important that the rules should apply to everybody equally in order to eradicate the virus. The correct procedure, after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive, is to isolate. Johnson and Sunak swiftly sidestepped this rule, on the eve of ‘Freedom day’, with the claim that they were testing a new ‘pilot scheme’ of not isolating. Many people criticised the pilot scheme as being nothing more than a flimsy excuse to ensure that the pair did not have to isolate themselves.
It is important to mention that for NHS workers, this rule does not apply. Due to the important nature of their job, they are still allowed to go into work after having been in contact with someone who has tested positive, given that they themselves have tested negative. Perhaps then it is important to allow for certain exceptions in the rules if it is for essential work. It is true that the work of politicians is extremely important as it shapes the country and society we live in. However, it can be said that the work of NHS staff can not be done from home, whereas arguably Johnson and Sunak’s jobs can.
Ultimately, as members of the government themselves, they set an example to everyone in the country. When they disregard the rules, it sends the message that it is ok for everyone else to do so, even though it evidently is not considering the spike in COVID rates rates. People feel betrayed by the hypocrisy that the government has shown during the Coronavirus pandemic: from the Dominic Cummings Barnard Castle incident to this, it’s just another example of one rule for them, and another rule for everyone else. Thankfully, Johnson and Sunak are now isolating after promptly announcing a U-turn, after only 157 minutes, on their ‘pilot scheme’ due to the public backlash that followed it. Hopefully, we won’t see another incident like this in the future.