The coronavirus (COVID-19) has thrown the entire world for a loop, no country has been unaffected by its strength and ability to spread. The virus has shown no mercy in who it affects- the wealthy elites share risk with those thrown into poverty. Most notoriously, however, would be the United Kingdom’s prime minister Boris Johnson. Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 last week and was responding to meeting and his duties virtually. However, things changed when Johnson was admitted to the ICU on April 6th, 2020 and British foreign secretary Dominic Raab (1) took over his duties.
Now one of the main issues with the UK’s response to the coronavirus is the fact that they’re lacking a true succession plan. It is not clear who exactly would be next in line if the prime minister were to be incapacitated for an extended amount of time. Sources say that:
“If a prime minister departs suddenly for any reason, the party to which they belong elects a new leader and, after confirmation by the Queen, that person becomes the new permanent prime minister. That process could take days, or even weeks.” (2)
Worse than the lack of a true succession plan is the country’s clear lack of an attack plan. Today, April 11th, the political parties apparently meant to discuss a recall of parliament. According to The Guardian, “All parliamentary business was suspended on 25 March because of fears that MPs would contract the virus while working in close proximity. There was also concern that they would spread Covid-19 when returning to their constituencies.”(3) the parliamentary website says that MPs are to return to work on April 21st, but that deadline is likely to be pushed back as well.
The UK has been handling the coronavirus in such a way that has NHS workers overworked and working overtime- the democracy is straining to try to keep things sane. To see a country with the power and resources of the United Kingdom failing to protect its people is a sign of potential democratic decline. The emergency laws put into place, such as the social-distancing requirements, the limit on the amount of time allowed to be spent outside, and so on expose tensions between liberty and security. While it’s important to protect your people, the rules put in place must also work. There cannot be a casual disposal of fundamental rights.
In an article from the Washington Post regarding the UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the post mentions that, “Unlike every other country in the world, the U.K. was apparently planning to accept a wave of infections which would ordinarily be considered catastrophic, with the goal of generating ‘herd immunity.’”(4)
The “herd immunity” response was dropped quickly however, a good move made too late. Today, April 11th, 2020 alone, the UK reported 917 coronavirus related deaths. With the future hanging in such uncertainty, it’s unclear when or how the UK will recover. Its pubs and restaurants are closed, its prime minister remains hospitalized, and its democracy remains questionable.