ony Blair today strongly criticises Britain’s response to Covid-19, saying it “isn’t good enough” and that it may take two or three years to win the battle against the virus.
He said action was needed “on a radically bigger and better scale than at present” in four key areas, including vaccination, testing and data-gathering.
“The system will say it’s doing the best it can on all fronts,” writes Mr Blair. “The stark truth is that this best isn’t good enough.
“This crisis isn’t ending soon; and the economic and health damage of prolonged lockdown is frightening.
“Our opponent — this virus — is smart, agile, resilient and willing to shift instantly it is threatened, to ward off the threat. We have to be the same.”
The former Labour leader has been a leading independent voice in the pandemic, and was the first to propose delaying a second vaccine jab to allow more people to get the medicine in the first few weeks of rollout.
He also led calls for mass testing using lateral flow tests, which the Government is rolling out this week.
Speaking separately to the Standard, Mr Blair responded to reports he is planning a political “comeback” through his role in the pandemic. “The only comeback I am interested in is for our country to return to as near normal as quickly as possible so people can live their lives safely and our economy can get back on track,” he said.
In his article, he proposes another new idea — a voluntary “Covid Pass” for people who have been vaccinated and tested negative, unlocking travel restrictions and giving them access to big events “from attending an O2 concert to the FA Cup Final”. The Government has denied reports that it is was looking at a Covid “passport” that could carry similar privileges.
He also calls for more gathering of data on testing and vaccination, to be shared with scientific communities around the world. And he argues vaccine shortages must be eased by giving manufacturers more help, including a guarantee to buy every dose.
He says the UK response to the crisis has “at every step” been too slow to identify new dangers. He stressed: “This is not a criticism of the UK Government. All governments or nearly all have been in the same position.”
But he lists a series of measures taken by the Government, including hoping the first lockdown could end the crisis, the tiered approach, and hopes that the “fresh winter lockdown” would give a break before vaccination arrived.