Thursday, 9 April 2020

Looking back at the way Britain dealt with the virus from the start might be pointless

I know from well placed sources that the British Chief Medical Officer wanted a lockdown a long time before Boris Johnson agreed to it. The PM wanted if possible to do what the Swedish government is doing, until Professor Neil Ferguson scared him with the prospect of 250,000 dead.

Professor Ferguson, who has made some bad mistakes before, must take the blame if the lockdown proves to have been unnecessary and, in any case, he must take the blame for infecting a huge number of people in Downing St, probably including Mr Johnson. Let's pray that he isn't remembered in history as the first man to have killed an English Prime Minister since Bellingham shot dead Spencer Perceval.

It seems from this Reuters article that the medical establishment had in mind all along a bad flu epidemic, rather than a SARS epidemic. They still think that that made little difference but some argue it made all the difference in the world.

'Johnson, who himself has sickened with the virus, moved more slowly than the leaders of many other prosperous countries to adopt a lockdown. He has been criticised for not moving more swiftly to organise mass tests and mobilise supplies of life-saving equipment and beds. Johnson was hospitalized on April 5 and moved to intensive care the next day.'It is too soon to judge the ultimate soundness of the UK’s early response. If history concludes that it was lacking, then the criticism levelled at the prime minister may be that, rather than ignoring the advice of his scientific advisers, he failed to question their assumptions.

'Interviews and records published so far suggest that the scientific committees that advised Johnson didn’t study, until mid-March, the option of the kind of stringent lockdown adopted early on in China, where the disease arose in December, and then followed by much of Europe and finally by Britain itself. The scientists’ reasoning: Britons, many of them assumed, simply wouldn’t accept such restrictions.

'The UK scientists were also mostly convinced - and many still are - that, once the new virus escaped China, quarantine measures would likely not succeed. Minutes of technical committees reviewed by Reuters indicate that almost no attention was paid to preparing a programme of mass testing. Other minutes and interviews show Britain was following closely a well-laid plan to fight a flu pandemic - not this deadlier disease. The scientists involved, however, deny that the flu focus ultimately made much difference.'

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