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The UK government was ready for this pandemic. Until it sabotaged its own system

4 100 861
19.05.2020

We are trapped in a long, dark tunnel, all of whose known exits are blocked. There is no plausible route out of the UK’s coronavirus crisis that does not involve mass suffering and death. If, as some newspapers and Conservative MPs insist, the government eases the lockdown while the pandemic is still raging, the eventual death toll could be several times greater than today’s. If it doesn’t, and we spend all the warm months of the year in confinement, the impact on our mental and physical health, jobs and relationships could be catastrophic.

We have been told repeatedly that the UK was unprepared for this pandemic. This is untrue. The UK was prepared, but then it de-prepared. Last year, the Global Health Security Index ranked this nation second in the world for pandemic readiness, while the US was first. Broadly speaking, in both nations the necessary systems were in place. Our governments chose not to use them.

The climate modeller James Annan has used his analytical methods to show what would have happened if the UK government had imposed its lockdown a week earlier. Starting it on 16 March, rather than 23 March, his modelling suggests, would by now have saved around 30,000 lives, reducing the rate of illness and death from coronavirus roughly by a factor of five.

But even 16 March would have been extraordinarily late. We now know that government ministers were told on 11 February that the virus could be catastrophic, and decisive action was urgently required. Instead, Boris Johnson told us to wash our hands and “go about our normal daily lives”.

Had the government acted in February, we can hazard a guess about what the result would have been, as the world has conducted a clear controlled experiment: weighing South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand against the UK, the US and Brazil. South Korea did everything the UK government could........

© The Guardian