Reflection

10th June 2020

“Had we introduced lockdown a week earlier we’d have reduced the final death toll by at least half,” [Neil Ferguson] told MPs on the House of Commons science committee. “The measures, given what we knew about the virus then, were warranted. Certainly had we introduced them earlier we’d have seen many fewer deaths.”

Official figures on Wednesday show the death toll from the virus already stands at 41,128, suggesting that if Ferguson is right, more than 20,000 lives could have been saved by taking more draconian action earlier. …

Johnson declined to express regret that the government did not act sooner, saying the data is not yet available to make a full assessment.

23rd December 2020

Introducing a national lockdown in England one week earlier could have saved more than 20,000 lives during the first wave of coronavirus, a new study has concluded.

Experts from Imperial College London looked at the transmission of coronavirus across England and how effective restrictions brought in to suppress the virus were. The study said: “Among control measures implemented, only national lockdown brought the reproduction number below 1 consistently; introduced one week earlier it could have reduced first wave deaths from 36,700 to 15,700.”

A government spokesperson said: “Every death from this virus is a tragedy and our condolences go out to everyone who has lost a loved one. … We have been guided by the advice of scientific experts and our response helped to ensure the NHS was not overwhelmed. As new emerging evidence has come through, we have constantly adapted our approach and have taken swift action to stop its spread.”

15th March 2021

“There was a genuine argument in government, which everyone has subsequently denied,” one senior figure tells me, about whether there should be a hard lockdown or a plan to protect only the most vulnerable, and even encourage what was described to me at that time as “some degree of herd immunity”. … real consideration was given to whether suppressing Covid entirely could be counter-productive.

On 3 March, when the prime minister set out the government’s plan, the focus was on detecting early cases and preventing the spread. But on 12 March, with journalists crammed into the state dining room at No 10, he told the public that the country was facing its worst health crisis in a generation. Anyone with symptoms was told to stay at home for a week. …

On 13 March, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) committee concluded the virus was spreading faster than thought. … Then, one official says, everything started to move at “lightning speed”. … On 16 March, the public were told to stop all unnecessary social contact and to work at home if possible.

9th January 2021

I’m pretty sure I know where and when I was infected and indeed who passed it on to me. In late March, a day or two before the first lockdown came into effect I walked into York city centre with a bravado that turned out to be hubris. … This was before masks in shops became mandatory and before people really started to wear them. While queueing in Boots I noticed, too late, that the cashier had a nasty cough. I was too embarrassed to leave the line before it was my turn to be served …  She must have known this was a symptom of covid and, for that matter, her store manager must have known it too – she should have been told to self-isolate and supported on full pay. I can’t be 100% sure I got the virus from her, but it seems highly likely. Sometimes I wonder if the elderly woman who was behind me in the queue is still alive.

6th July 1954

“But we didn’t feel hardship at all, we believed that tomorrow would be fine and beautiful: a sun red as blood and before us, a great road filled with light, a beautiful garden”.

The voice of Pin Yin reaches us from that nightfall into which – at what speed in miles per second of the turning world? – our friends and our most certain allies have gone and continue to vanish. If nothing else, civil war will have the best of justifications.

(Sources: Heather Stewart and Ian Sample (Guardian), Shaun Lintern (Independent), Laura Kuenssberg (BBC), Ed Rooksby (1975-2021), Guy-Ernest Debord.)

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