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The true prices of Britain’s mishandling of Covid are actually plain to see | Devi Sridhar


In spring final yr it was clear to these of us who work in international public well being that the British authorities had taken the worst path for dealing with Covid-19. Ministers had allowed the virus to unfold all through the nation with out constructing any type of surveillance system to detect circumstances or defending well being employees with satisfactory PPE. Because of these selections, the federal government then compelled the nation into an extended, harsh lockdown in an try to scale back the strain on the NHS and preserve hospital admissions underneath management.

In April 2020 I tweeted: “At what level will the British public realise what has occurred over the previous 9 weeks?” On the time, I questioned whether or not the true prices of the federal government’s selections would ever be totally reckoned with. Right this moment, the primary official report into the federal government’s dealing with of the disaster has laid naked these prices. Lots of its findings, which draw on days of testimony from witnesses to the well being and social care committee and science and know-how committee, have lengthy been clear to these of us working in public well being. From March 2020, we had been making an attempt to make sense of every day coverage selections and press briefings that appeared to be hurtling in direction of disaster.

The federal government’s early plan was to work in direction of “herd immunity”, which might have meant nearly all of the inhabitants contracting the virus, creating antibodies after which turning into resistant to it. But a deliberate herd immunity technique, when society has no vaccine or efficient therapy, has by no means been used in opposition to any infectious illness in historical past. Ministers pursued this technique on the premise {that a} vaccine or therapy wouldn’t be accessible any time quickly (vaccines can typically take years to develop), and that the virus was “unstoppable”.

Their coverage selections meant that measures taken by east Asian nations, resembling mass testing, tracing, banning massive gatherings, face coverings, screening incoming passengers at airports and cancelling non-essential journey, had been initially ignored within the UK.

Scientists like myself struggled to know why these coverage selections had been being made – and why time was being discounted. Every an infection that could possibly be prevented till a vaccine or therapy was developed may imply a life saved. The problem for each authorities was to purchase time with out dropping lives, inflicting healthcare programs to break down or locking individuals of their houses indefinitely. In March final yr I wrote to a senior authorities adviser noting: “We have to purchase time to get NHS employees protected correctly, extra gear and get extra knowledge … We have to keep testing, contact tracing, applicable social distancing and defend our well being workforce who’re restricted and treasured.”

But there was a basic fatalism amongst ministers and authorities advisers that little could possibly be accomplished to cease the wave of infections, and that someway ignoring the issue would make it go away. Whereas different governments began doing their utmost to manage infections and talk the seriousness of Covid-19 to their populations, in March 2020 Britons had been being instructed to clean their fingers whereas singing Completely happy Birthday and to say goodbye to our family members.

What caught in my thoughts whereas watching the South Korean, Taiwanese and Danish governments rush to place in place testing and strong tracing was: how a lot does your authorities look after its individuals? How a lot do your leaders care about you and your family members’ lives?

I assume many scientists really feel like I do now. We don’t wish to give attention to blame – as an alternative, we wish to be taught the teachings from these errors and work behind the scenes to ensure they aren’t repeated. We’re additionally joyful, like everybody else, to see how vaccines and efficient scientific trials have produced higher methods to deal with Covid-19. The NHS and the college sector have been the shining lights throughout this pandemic.

However I can perceive that those that misplaced family members to Covid-19, those that confronted delayed care from the NHS as a result of it was compelled into being a Covid-focused service, and those that misplaced financially from extended restrictions will likely be indignant and need solutions. Who within the UK authorities will rise up and take duty now the British public know what has occurred?





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