Covid Response “Social Murder?” asks BMJ

The executive editor of the British Medical Journal, Kamran Abbasi has called for “redress” for the mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far left over 2 million people dead.

Considering whether to best speak of “negligence, manslaughter or misconduct,” Abbasi asks, “When politicians wilfully neglect scientific advice, international and historical experience, and their own alarming statistics and modelling because to act goes against their political strategy or ideology, is that lawful?”

The editor of one of the world’s leading medical journals singled out the governments of five countries: the US, Brazil, India, Mexico and the UK. Together, they account for half of all Covid-19 deaths worldwide. Four of the five have been governed by right-wing populists who disdained lock-downs in favour of business as usual.

In response, Abbasi asks, “When politicians and experts say that they are willing to allow tens of thousands of premature deaths for the sake of population immunity or in the hope of propping up the economy, is that not premeditated and reckless indifference to human life?”

Australia has been spared much of the ravages of the pandemic by the accident of geography. Yet much of the BMJ’s criticism applies here.

For instance, the journal underlined the intransigence of governments for “not acting immediately after the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January 2020.” Indeed, warnings of the potential danger of the virus were circulating before then.

In late March, Professor Bill Bowtell of the Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity at UNSW slammed the federal government’s response in an interview for The Saturday Paper. “They were warned 12 weeks ago by WHO and others. They did not accumulate test kits. They did not accumulate the necessary emergency equipment. They did not undertake a public education campaign. 

“They gave no money to science, no money to research, no money to the International Vaccine Institute, no money to WHO. They diligently did not do anything useful.”

Are we content to wave away the government’s inaction and ineptitude because “only” 900 Australians died? Or will a reckoning come at the next election?

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