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Sun Apr 19, 2020, 03:25 AM

Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster


(paywall but you can register for free to read it)

Boris Johnson skipped five Cobra meetings on the virus, calls to order protective gear were ignored and scientists’ warnings fell on deaf ears. Failings in February may have cost thousands of lives

On the third Friday of January a silent and stealthy killer was creeping across the world. Passing from person to person and borne on ships and planes, the coronavirus was already leaving a trail of bodies.

The virus had spread from China to six countries and was almost certainly in many others. Sensing the coming danger, the British government briefly went into wartime mode that day, holding a meeting of Cobra, its national crisis committee.

But it took just an hour that January 24 lunchtime to brush aside the coronavirus threat. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, bounced out of Whitehall after chairing the meeting and breezily told reporters the risk to the UK public was “low”.

This was despite the publication that day of an alarming study by Chinese doctors in the medical journal The Lancet. It assessed the lethal potential of the virus, for the first time suggesting it was comparable to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed up to 50 million people.

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Reply Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster (Original post)
steve2470 Apr 2020 OP
muriel_volestrangler Apr 2020 #1
Dworkin Apr 2020 #2
muriel_volestrangler Apr 2020 #3

Response to steve2470 (Original post)

Sun Apr 19, 2020, 03:32 AM

1. A similar article from the Observer (Guardian)

How did Britain get its response to coronavirus so wrong?

In early February, Donald Trump announced a ban on travellers who had passed through China in the previous 14 days. Europe began focused testing of people with symptoms and travel histories that linked them to the disease, but little else.

Johnson, it seemed, still had Brexit and free trade much more on his mind. Any hint of draconian action to fight coronavirus that might hurt the economy was the last thing he was entertaining.
But in the UK there appeared to be greater reluctance to act decisively with lockdowns: the banning of mass gatherings and the closure of pubs and restaurants. The government’s scientific and behavioural science advisers were warning ministers that the public might react badly to draconian measures and would not tolerate them for long.

In an apparent show of defiance against the lockdowners, Johnson and Symonds attended the England v Ireland rugby match at Twickenham on 7 March. The Cheltenham Festival, attended over three days to 13 March by 250,000 racegoers, was allowed to go ahead.


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Response to steve2470 (Original post)

Sun Apr 19, 2020, 05:20 PM

2. Now there are the ongoing questions ....


Yes, delay has allowed the virus to take a deep hold. But what of the future?

News from South Korea is that some apparently recovered people are testing positive again. If that pattern develops there is a worst case scenario threatening. If we cannot assume that this virus will behave like some others and go away naturally, then there is a permanent threat. For old and vulnerable people (including me) that could mean long term social distancing, maybe lifelong.

That's hard and the government, maybe no one, has the answers.


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Response to steve2470 (Original post)

Sun Apr 19, 2020, 05:48 PM

3. Archived version here:


Several emergency planners and scientists said that the plans to protect the UK in a pandemic had once been a top priority and had been well-funded for a decade following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. But then austerity cuts struck. “We were the envy of the world,” the source said, “but pandemic planning became a casualty of the austerity years when there were more pressing needs.”

The last rehearsal for a pandemic was a 2016 exercise codenamed Cygnus which predicted the health service would collapse and highlighted a long list of shortcomings — including, presciently, a lack of PPE and intensive care ventilators.

But an equally lengthy list of recommendations to address the deficiencies was never implemented. The source said preparations for a no-deal Brexit “sucked all the blood out of pandemic planning” in the following years.
A senior politician told this newspaper: “I had conversations with Chris Whitty at the end of January and they were absolutely focused on herd immunity. The reason is that with flu, herd immunity is the right response if you haven’t got a vaccine.

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