Two years after the first lock down, is the government doing any better?

Estimated Covid cases in UK since November 2021 – Source: Zoe Covid App

Covid has not gone away. The UK has performed badly in comparison with many other countries, especially in Asia, and the latest wave is worrying. Bob Copeland argues that much of this was avoidable, and this is supported by authoritative sources.

SARS-COV2 virus (Wikimedia)

The first lockdown in March 2020 came about because modelling at Imperial College  suggested that 200,000 deaths might be possible. Two years, and many tears, later that number has almost been reached.

In March 2021, angry at how badly the UK had managed this public health emergency, frustrated and despairing that we were not learning from countries whose response had been so much better than ours, I produced some simple analyses to illustrate this. One year later I updated these analyses, which show that even with the successful roll out of the vaccines, we are still lagging far behind those countries.

Total Cases and Deaths by 23 March 2021
CountryPopulation (Million)CasesCases/MillionDeathsDeaths/Million
United Kingdom67.94,307,30463,436126,2841,860
Japan126.5457,7543,6198,86170
South Korea51.399,4211,9381,70433
Taiwan23.81,0074210<1
Vietnam97.32,5762635<1
Total Cases and Deaths by 23 March 2022
CountryPopulation (Million)CasesCases/MillionDeathsDeaths/Million
United Kingdom67.920,475,376301,552164,0762,416
Japan126.56,148,04948,60127,251215
South Korea51.310,427,247203,26013,432262
Taiwan23.822,09192885336
Vietnam97.38,338,91485,70342,014432
 Total Cases and Deaths between 23 March 2021 & 23 March 2022
CountryPopulation (Million)CasesCases/MillionDeathsDeaths/Million
United Kingdom67.916,168,072238,11637,792557
Japan126.55,690,29544,98318,390145
South Korea51.310,327,826201,32211,728229
Taiwan23.821,08488684335
Vietnam97.38,336,33885,67741,979431

The government has still offered no explanation for this poor response, but others have helped to shine a light on it:

Independent Sage

Data From Independent Sage

The Friday briefings presented by Alice Roberts, Christina Pagel, Gabriel Scally et al.  have provided a clear thread of analysis and evidence throughout the year. They have also produced a wide range of related reports with clear recommendations, appreciated by many here and across world, but largely ignored by government. The briefing on March 18th 2022 included the following.

Omicron BA.2 This variant has featured in the briefings for many weeks and is now dominant. It is 30% more transmissible than the original Omicron variant BA.1, and the UK currently has the highest rate of infection ever recorded.

Outbreaks in Care Homes are increasing. Immunity in Care Homes is declining, a 4th dose of the vaccine is being planned, but this is already probably too late as cases are already rising.

Data From Independent Sage

Children. We are not doing to enough to mitigate the impact of this wave on our children, and more children are being hospitalised. Improving ventilation, smaller class sizes, mask wearing, vaccinating the under 12s are all steps that could be taken.

Hospitals. Overstretched and under resourced they are now facing a 7th wave of Covid. Staff shortages and absences continue to be an issue.  Currently 25% of those attending A&E are having to wait more than 4 hours to admission, transfer or discharge, the target being 5%

Over the past year Independent Sage have explained that whilst the vaccine has been vital in reducing hospitalisations and deaths, there is still a need to slow the spread of the virus; they have spoken out when measures were introduced too late, or eased too soon; they have shown that as a result of choosing “to live with COVID” without taking steps to slow the spread of the virus, there will be more infections and deaths, and more funding needed for additional health care to treat the extra cases.

Data From Independent Sage

The People’s Covid Inquiry

As the first wave of the pandemic subsided, the Government was pressed for an urgent inquiry so that lessons could be applied in time for future waves. The government’s refusal prompted the launch of The People’s Covid Inquiry chaired by Michael Mansfield QC. This inquiry started collecting evidence in February 2021 and published its report “Misconduct in Public Office” in December 2021. That report lists some 15 groups of findings and recommendations, supported by details in eight sections of grim heartbreaking reading.

The first finding is ….

F1.1 There have been serious governance failures of the Westminster Government, in breach of all of the Nolan Principles: Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership. These contributed to tens of thousands of avoidable deaths and suffering, and they amount to misconduct in public office.

The findings listed under Public Health Response include:

F6.10 The Government failed to establish the core public health measures of ‘Find, Test, Trace, Isolate, Support’ (FTTIS)…..

F6.13 The UK government followed an incoherent and dangerous pandemic strategy, failing to learn valuable lessons from other parts of the world (e.g. South Asia; New Zealand) where more effective strategies were pursued.

A global pandemic has long been known to be the greatest threat to our national security, yet when it occurred there was no functioning Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support system ready for it. Imagine what would have happened if, in the 1930’s, when German Air Power was recognised as a threat to our national security, we hadn’t implement the world’s first integrated system for national Air Defence.

New Zealand acted to stop the spread of the virus at a time when there were only 102 cases and no deaths (p.82) whilst our government waited for infections and deaths to mount before acting.

Accountability

At the start of the 7th wave of infection commercial considerations continue to take precedence over the health and well being of those caught in the front line of this emergency, especially workers in the care, education, health and transport sectors. The poorest, who have already suffered higher rates of death and infection, will pay disproportionally more of their income to cover the cost of the government’s failure.

The stranglehold that the government and its supporters have across the media means that we can no longer rely on the press and broadcast media to hold our elected representatives to account as they should. A few lockdown breaking parties in Downing Street and now a war in Ukraine have generated weeks of headlines diverting public attention from the “serious governance failures of the Westminster Government” where the relentless focus of a free press really should be aimed.

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