Beset by Tory backbenchers and right-wing media who abhorred the idea of restrictions that could hurt the economy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson chose to ignore this advice. As a result, Covid is now “rioting” across the country, as one Sage member put it, with more than half a million people infected in the week ending October 23 . Deaths will inevitably increase in the coming weeks: Experts may predict thousands of daily deaths by December. A medical disaster is unfolding.
Understanding how this disaster happened is of crucial importance – because it cannot happen again. Some may be tempted to conclude that our leaders have momentarily taken their eyes off the ball. This is not, however, an argument that stands up to scrutiny. In fact, the causes of this month’s dramatic surge in Covid cases have their roots in political decisions made by a government that has been obsessed with libertarian issues since the start of the pandemic. This obsession has led him to constantly downplay the threat of Covid to our health while constantly emphasizing its potential to cause economic damage.
In the summer, for example, ministers chose to reduce lockdown measures despite many scientists being told that with thousands of new cases still recorded every day, it was simply too early to ease restrictions. . The virus should have been suppressed longer, in short.
As a result, the country’s new testing and traceability system – which was supposed to identify those infected and ensure their isolation – had to struggle from the start to cope with a high number of infections. This problem was confused by the sad fact that the system was too centralized in its structure and ultimately turned out to be unsuitable for use.
It was bad enough. However, the problem was only compounded by the fact that the testing and traceability system had been touted by the government as a quick fix that would get the country out of the lockdown by quickly isolating those infected. This idea had one glaring flaw: a large number of infected people had no symptoms of the disease and therefore passed undetected by the testing system, leading to an inevitable increase in the number of cases.
Then in August Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented his £ 500million catering program to help, to encourage people to dine out by offering discounts. Its aim was to restart the hospitality industry, but it only produced marginal benefits. Instead, the program has triggered a significant increase in Covid cases by encouraging large numbers of people to visit restaurants – where the virus can easily spread – over a concentrated period of time. Once again, security came after economic concerns.
Since then, the government has attempted to quell the virus by introducing lockdowns at the local level and has persisted in asserting that a national circuit breaker – as proposed by its science advisers – is unnecessary. It is now shown that they were disastrously wrong.
It’s hard to see any positives in this sad story of government incompetence – although some lessons can be learned from the latest lockdown. In particular, we must avoid the mistakes that have led to the spread of infections in care homes and we must make extreme efforts to protect the elderly and caregivers. The test and traceability service should be overhauled urgently, and government advice to the public needs to be much more clear and consistent.
As Wellcome Trust chief Jeremy Farrar said: ‘If we can strengthen ourselves now for a few weeks, there’s a chance we can relax a bit between Christmas and New Years without the virus getting out of hand. . ”
It’s not much, but unfortunately that’s all we have left for the moment.