The recent revelations regarding the handling of Covid-19 by the British government have raised serious concerns about the government’s ability to protect public health. A leaked cache of over 100,000 WhatsApp messages between ministers, officials and scientists throughout the pandemic has revealed that ministers briefly considered ordering all domestic cats in Britain to be killed amid fears they could be spreading Covid.
Former Health Minister, Lord Bethell, has acknowledged that this concern about pets underlined how little was known about the disease at the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020. However, the mere consideration of such an extreme measure should be cause for serious alarm.
Lord Bethell has defended the government’s decision-making process, stating that “there was a moment we were very unclear about whether domestic pets could transmit the disease.” However, the fact remains that ordering the extermination of all cats in Britain would have been a gross overreaction, and an entirely inappropriate response to the unknown risks associated with Covid-19 at the time.
Furthermore, the leaked WhatsApp messages reveal that the government was not always following the guidance of its own experts. In one exchange, former Health Secretary Matt Hancock rejected the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty’s call to test all residents going into English care homes for Covid at the start of the pandemic. Sir Chris Whitty told him there should be Covid testing for ‘all going into care homes’, but Mr Hancock’s WhatsApp messages suggest he did not follow the guidance, instead telling advisers it ‘muddies the waters’.
This kind of disregard for the advice of experts is deeply concerning, and raises serious questions about the government’s commitment to protecting public health. The fact that ministers considered the extermination of cats as a possible solution to the unknown risks associated with Covid-19 only underscores the need for greater transparency and accountability in government decision-making processes.