Health officials, local police, councillors and firefighters will now join forces and go door to door to test 80,000 Britons across eight areas in England as they desperately try to identify more cases of the deadly South African strain.
The government has come under fire from scientific advisers SAGE who warned that this could have been avoided if their advice to close borders weeks ago to stop new COVID variants from entering the UK had been followed.
Sputnik spoke with the chairman of the English Democrats Robin Tilbrook to find out his thoughts on the government’s door-to-door strategy, what this development could mean for the present lockdown restrictions and why borders were not closed after advanced warnings?
Sputnik: What are your thoughts on the government strategy to implement door-to-door COVID testing to try and find every single case of the South African variant among 80,000 people?
Tilbrook: Well, it seems odd. They're going to find some people who have got it. Whether anything useful could then be done with those people I’m not so sure. There's also the question about the reliability of the testing. I mean, one of the curiosities here in England is that the British government has created a rule whereby, if you are shown on a test to have the coronavirus then you have it, even though Matt Hancock actually admitted that the number of false positives were perhaps 1 percent.
In other words, it's possible that most of those who have been tested positive are not in fact positive. The situation is that the government has created this rule whereby, curiously, the normal process of doctors diagnosing things has been reversed. So if you're found on a test, which has questionable reliability, to have got that thing, then you're treated by law, that you've got it.
Whereas if the doctor says that he thinks you've got it, and does a diagnosis that you've got it, that's just treated as suspicion that you've got it. Normally with any other disease, if the doctor diagnoses you as having it, then you are treated as having actually got it. Whereas if you've really got a test that's come up with a result then that's just suspected.
So we had this matter in a court case recently in Portugal, where the Portuguese Court of Appeal ruled that the tests weren't reliable enough to make it possible to say that a person was diagnosed as having got it if the test was positive. So I'm thinking that this is part of an overreaction, really, rather than something that's going to be particularly helpful.
Sputnik: Now Sage have said that they warned the government to close all borders weeks ago to stop new COVID variants entering the UK but that advice was ignored. How worrying is this?
Tilbrook: Well, it's even worse than you said and that is very worrying. If you are thinking of a disease sweeping across the world, surely the first thing you would do is quarantine the country. I mean the whole idea of quarantine is a very old, well-established idea. What happened was back in March, or maybe February, there was a row that was reported at the time between Priti Patel, Home Secretary and Boris Johnson, and Priti Patel had said that we ought to be quarantining the country. But Boris Johnson absolutely refused.
And it is worth remembering that, you know, in effect, the government has quarantined us in our own homes for months. Now over the course of the past year, whereas they haven't done the basic measure of restricting people coming into the country who might have the disease. So it's a terrific dereliction of duty, I can't put it any other way.
Sputnik: How could this affect the vaccine rollout? Especially since there's no evidence to actually suggest that the vaccines are able to control the South African variant?
Tilbrook: Well, I don't know if we know enough about the South African variant to say whether the vaccines are going to be useful against it or not. I think it's worth bearing in mind that we've now got to a point where the disease is endemic in the population, in other words it's never going to be possible to get rid of it altogether.
Sputnik: What do you think this all means for the present lockdown restrictions that are in place? And do you think we will see them being loosened anytime soon?
Tilbrook: Well, I think the trouble is, governments across the UK have all decided they quite like the additional powers that they've got as a result of this and so I feel that they're going to be reluctant to release us from this lockdown and all the various sort of limits on what we thought were our constitutional rights.
The British government has been producing very large amounts of additional money, basically, through the equivalent of printing notes. And in the end, there's not only going to be the issue about what happens to our freedoms, but there's also going to be the issue about what happens to the value of money.
I think with the amount of money that's been injected into the economy, you can be virtually certain there will be dramatic escalation in inflation and lots of firms will go out of business so there's also going to be huge unemployment. So it's a really desperate and catastrophic situation I think.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.