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25th February 2021

Vaccine rollout: The government’s last shot

Will the UK’s vaccine rollout be the much-needed weapon in the government’s arsenal to win back popular support or will it be another blunder waiting to happen?
Vaccine rollout: The government’s last shot
Photo: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

It’s no secret that the government’s handling of the pandemic has been, to put it bluntly, embarrassing. A pattern of delayed restrictions and unclear government guidance has meant that the Conservative government presides over one of the highest death tolls in the world.

Given this, it is unsurprising that anti-establishment sentiment is at an all-time high. From those stuck at home due to the national lockdown to those hospitalised after catching Covid-19, the consensus among the country is palpable. People are losing faith in the government’s ability to manage the virus, fast.

Frankly, it’s not hard to see why. With countries around the world emerging from lockdowns to bright, virus-free futures, Britons are being slapped with restriction after restriction.

To make matters worse, the working-class is bearing the brunt of economic repercussions.  Many are struggling to find permanent employment and others are grappling with the mental strain of the seemingly endless number of lockdowns.

The once busy streets of Manchester are but a shadow of their former selves, painting a sad and dreary picture of our current reality.

Alongside the dystopian reality of 2021 Britain, there is also reason to think that a culture of corruption in the Tory party is responsible for the high levels of distrust in the government. No example of this is clearer than in the government’s handling of PPE.

In a November 2020 audit by the National Audit Office, it was reported that the government had set up the fast-track lane “to assess and process potential PPE leads”. For those suppliers who had been shortlisted, their chances of success were as high as one in ten. The issue here is the fact that the “high priority” lane for suppliers is filled with the friends of Tory politicians.

Among the 1,200 contracts handed out, half were given to companies run by the friends and associates of the Tory party. The Conservative’s clear agenda to prioritise the businesses of their financial backers above the health of the nation has undoubtedly contributed to a waning of trust in the government. For example, a recent survey by Survation found that 59% of voters think the government’s “high priority” lane is corrupt.

With that said, whether the issues were truly the result of corruption or incompetence is of little bearing. In the world of politics, impressions reign supreme and the impression people are forming of this Conservative government is one of dishonesty, corruption and deceit.

Granted, the lack of trust in the government cannot solely be blamed on the pandemic. The unity of the country was already severely damaged by the bipartisan split of Brexit and the country’s wounds had yet to heal before Covid-19 struck.  A 2020 academic report found exemplifies this.

The study found that both Leavers and Remainers felt that the government would try to “hide behind Covid” when blamed for any negative economic impacts of Brexit. An observation which revealed that the wound of Brexit is still fresh in the minds of Britons and the arrival of Covid-19 has eroded the little trust in the government that remained.

However, all is not lost. Looked upon as the silver bullet which would turn the tide of this battle, the UK’s vaccine program is now well underway. Currently ranked third in the world in cumulative Covid-19 vaccination doses administered per 100 people, the UK is clawing it’s way back into the spotlight as a bastion of medical excellence, much to the envy of its neighbours.

With the recent row over vaccine deliveries between the EU and UK finally brought to an end, it seems that Britons have a reason to once again feel proud to be British. This sentiment is also shown through the recent uptick in summer holiday bookings as noted by the world’s biggest holiday company, TUI.

With the frigid relationship between the government and its people is beginning to thaw out, it seems as though the topic of trust is once again back on the table.

Ultimately, the government’s vaccination plan will be a much-needed opportunity for 10 Downing Street to prove itself to the people that they are still deserving of our trust. With the oft used term “vaccine nationalism” used to describe prioritising one’s countrymen for vaccinations, it will remain to be seen if the government can truly rekindle the national trust and pride that it sorely needs.

Finally, as we stand upon the cusp of the end of this saga, one can only hope that the trust we have in the government can return to what it once was before this all began.

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