Coronavirus UK: Delayed action plan “could have cost 40k lives”

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One of Britain’s most senior scientists who advised four prime ministers on health strategy has criticized the government for unnecessarily increasing the death toll from covid-19.

Sir David King, who was chief science adviser from 2000 and worked with Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May, says Boris Johnson was dramatically wrong.

He said a one-week delay in implementing the government’s coronavirus action plan could have cost around 40,000 lives.

And he said that at some point, the route the government took when the battle against the corona virus started was to result in up to 250,000 deaths in Britain before it changed direction.

Clinical staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at the intensive care unit at Royal Papworth Hospital on May 5

Sir David, who is now part of a group of independent scientists offering advice on the virus and was Ms May’s climate change expert, said Britain went into lockdown too late.

He criticized the government for relying first on “collective immunity” to fight the virus, then modifying its action plan and relying on a poorly funded national health service.

Sir David King (pictured), who was Chief Science Advisor from 2000

Sir David King (pictured), who was Chief Science Advisor from 2000

Had Britain held to its initial herd immunity course, the total number of deaths from the corona virus would have been between “200,000 and 250,000”, he said.

He added: “There are around 12 to 15,000 people who have died because the national health service was unable to give them the emergency treatment they needed and would normally have received. .

“The total death toll in Britain is around 55,000. If the government had acted even a week earlier to lock us out, it would have been around a quarter of that number.

Sir David had several intermittent periods as a government adviser, with the main term running from October 2000 to December 2007.

He served as scientific adviser to David Cameron, then advised the Foreign Office and then worked for Ms May on climate change.

Sir David is also professor of physical chemistry at the University of Cambridge.

He said Blair and Brown had always listened to his advice and that in 2006 a World Health Organization report warned of a global infectious disease outbreak and hospital readiness operation with PPE has begun.

The intensive care unit at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge on May 5.  Sir David is also professor of physical chemistry at the University of Cambridge

The intensive care unit at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge on May 5. Sir David is also professor of physical chemistry at the University of Cambridge

But in 2010, he said, austerity measures were introduced by the Cameron government and are continuing under the current government.

“The National Health Service has been hit hard by these austerity measures. The lower funding meant that long-term problems were put aside to deal with day-to-day problems.

“So this whole process was put aside. We have started to dismember the health care system in the UK.

“And we are still in this process today where the government announced that once again we were going to reorganize the health care system.

He said Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had always listened to his advice and that in 2006 a World Health Organization report warned of a global epidemic of infectious disease and a hospital readiness operation with PPE started.  In the photo, Mr. King (left) with Mr. Blair in 2001

He said Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had always listened to his advice and that in 2006 a World Health Organization report warned of a global epidemic of infectious disease and a hospital readiness operation with PPE started. In the photo, Mr. King (left) with Mr. Blair in 2001

“So when this epidemic happened, there was still a group that had joined us in this great program in 2006, the World Health Organization fully aware of this challenge for humanity.

“When the Chinese published an excellent article in The Lancet on January 23, the WHO got down to work and in early February released a report for each country on action to be taken.

“We didn’t take that into account. The country in Europe which has taken this report into account is Greece, a country which has suffered greatly economically.

“Their income may have fallen by 30% of GDP. But nonetheless, the Greek government got to work in February to equip itself with all the equipment it needed in its hospitals to deal with the epidemic, bringing in the expertise to manage it and putting itself also locked out before any other European country.

Serco staff working on behalf of NHS Test and Trace operate a coronavirus testing center on July 30 in Stone, England

Serco staff working on behalf of NHS Test and Trace operate a coronavirus testing center on July 30 in Stone, England

At this point, they lacked the testing and tracing capacity to successfully catch every case that would emerge in the country.

“When they went into lockdown the week of March 4, they didn’t have a single death and to date the total death toll in Greece is just under 200.

“And in Britain we are approaching 50,000”.

Sir David, in a podcast titled “Thoughts and Leaders” by Jonathan Gabay, launched into the debate over whether children should go back to school next month.

He said: “The damage from children who do not go to school is really much, much greater than the potential risks of capturing covid-19.

“Kids go to school and get various colds and things, and that’s how they develop antibodies.

Royal Papworth Hospital, May 5.  Had Britain respected its initial herd immunity course, the total number of deaths from the corona virus would have been between

Royal Papworth Hospital, May 5. Had Britain respected its initial herd immunity course, the total number of deaths from the corona virus would have been between “200,000 and 250,000”, according to Sir David

“So mixing with other kids is actually good for you in the long run. The most important thing for the country right now is to reopen schools and reopen them safely.

He said the testing and traceability system needed to be stepped up so that every covid-19 victim and their contacts could be isolated within 24 hours.

And he said people in isolation should be visited and not just monitored with phone calls and called for “shoe leather” to become the norm.

He said pubs and restaurants should not serve customers indoors due to the risk of unmasked people spreading the virus.

He added: “There is no doubt that wearing a mask is good indoors. But outside, as long as you keep a meter and a half or two meters apart, you’re fine.

“Whenever possible, you should wear a mask. ‘

He said it was possible that Britain “could see another peak,

He added: “Our leaders have done an extremely poor job so far. “

He said localized tracking should have been the norm with GPs involved rather than the nationwide operation currently in use.

He said doctors, nurses and the NHS had been rightly praised “for the amazing job and it’s the public sector at work”.

Referring to Sweden following its collective immunity route, he added: “I think that initially the policy of this government was to respect collective immunity, although they deny it.

“Then it was ditched when it became clear that we couldn’t handle when the disease was quadrupling every week. The projected death toll at that time was in the range of 200,000 to 250,000 in Britain.

He said he understood the government was ignoring WHO advice on Covid-19 because its attitude was for developing countries and it was absurd.

He added: “We did not act in time, we could have kept this disease at a very low level.

“We could have had a very small number of fatalities and now we could talk about an economy that would have recovered.

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