Jack Quann
Jack Quann

20.51 23 Mar 2021


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Britain has been marking one year since its first national lockdown to combat the coronavirus.

People across the UK observed a minute's silence to remember victims of the pandemic.

Queen Elizabeth II led tributes, reflecting on the "grief and loss felt by so many".

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"As we look forward to a brighter future together, today we pause to reflect on the grief and loss that continues to be felt by so many people and families, and pay tribute to the immeasurable service of those who have supported us all over the last year," she said.

James O'Brien, broadcaster with LBC radio, told The Hard Shoulder nothing has really changed.

"We're still governed by a party that was built upon the lies and the ignorance of the Vote Leave government - so the relationship with the truth was strained at the best of times.

"The sort of retrospective attempts to portray [British Prime Minister] Boris Johnson's dithering and delays as being any way forgivable is in full force.

"But that's the problem with the news, isn't it - it gets recorded - so we're still reeling from the fact that he was boasting about shaking hands with people who were infected, he was claiming that it would be over in 12 weeks.

"He resisted calls to go into that initial lockdown, which might be forgivable in the context of... not knowing what this virus was going to do or was capable of.

"But of course in the UK, we saw it all again in the autumn - when he arguably caused even more deaths by not shutting down soon enough."

James said the day "is a year ago, but simultaneously feels as if it were both yesterday and 100 years ago".

UK lockdown 'feels like yesterday and 100 years ago' - James O'Brien marks COVID anniversary

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

'Wealth and health'

But he said so-called 'lockdown sceptics' have been somewhat silenced.

"I think that the shock of Christmas was so profound, and then it was followed fast by the establishment of the vaccines... so lockdown sceptics - as opposed to perhaps vaccine deniers - have been dialed down a lot by the success or presence of the vaccination.

"But the calls to end it early have started again, actually, this week in earnest.

"This curious attempt to argue that the sooner we all come out of isolation - whatever you want to call it - then the sooner the economy will return to normal is still a view that's being punted by the most powerful newspapers on the planet.

"Whereas of course, if we've learned anything from the last year, it's that the health and wealth are not binary choices.

"The wealth of the nation is best protected by protecting the health of the nation".

'Imagine if it was in Wales'

Asked about vaccine exports, James said the narrative is being used to suit the situation.

It comes after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened to block exports of AstraZeneca's inoculation if its European commitments are not met.

James said: "In the crucible of the British tabloids, detail and complicated evidence play no part at all.

"I don't think we've exported any doses yet, and yet European Union facilities have exported loads - including into the UK - but we don't see it like that.

"Ten million coming in this direction and none at all going out, and yet the narrative here is very much that the European Commission is potentially behaving outrageously - and we're perfectly entitled to behave in exactly the same way because, I think, the argument at the moment is we signed our contracts first.

"But I suspect the average punter, the average voter, isn't really going to care about the chronologically of contracts being signed.

"Imagine if it was in Wales - imagine if the whole the European Union was injecting people like it was going out of fashion, and we were lagging miles behind, and there was a factory in Wales that was exporting vaccines to Germany in their millions.

"We'd have people in the British government, certainly in the Conservative Party, calling for the invasion of Belgium by teatime today".

UK lockdown 'feels like yesterday and 100 years ago' - James O'Brien marks COVID anniversary

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

Main image: Undated file photo of James O'Brien. Picture by: PA/PA Archive/PA Images

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Boris Johnson Britain Coronavirus Lockdown Export Ban James O'Brien LBC Radio The Hard Shoulder UK Lockdown Vaccines

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