Thursday, March 19, 2020

Coronavirus 15

19th March 2020

The UK death count appears to be doubling in about two days.

13/03/2020 11
14/03/2020 21
15/03/2020 35
16/03/2020 55
17/03/2020 71
18/03/2020 104
19/03/2020 144

With exponential growth, the trick is to act before it looks like you need to.

We've been saying for quite a while that the UK is about a fortnight behind Italy and that we should have used that opportunity to do everything now being done two weeks ago.
14 days ago Italy was on 107. Italy now has just under 3000 deaths.

I notice that in the Second World War there were a total of 450,900 UK deaths. This was 0.94% of the 1939 population. If the fatality rate of Covid-19 is only 0.9% we should feel we got away with the optimistic end of the predicted uncertainty range.

The UK Government is now taking actions, albeit late in the day, and still not going far or fast enough. Perhaps it is not the moment for recriminations, but if only for the benefit of future historians, it is important to record where culpabilities lie.

Here is an article published in the Guardian on the 10th of December 2019, before we heard of this virus. Written by a hospital doctor, Andrew Meverson, it starkly explains just how close the NHS is teetering on the edge of collapse, with blame firmly laid on the current Prime Minister and the past decade of government policy.

"You and your party have had nearly a decade to leave the health service in a better state than when you found it. On every objective metric, the Conservative party has failed in that, and we see this in our NHS hospitals every single day. ...Prime Minister, the NHS is not safe in your hands. Your negligence and that of your party over the past decade has contributed to the deaths of nearly 5,500 patients, and if you were a junior doctor like me, your licence would now be revoked, and you would be sent to prison."

The vital policy imperative when faced with an exponentially spreading pandemic is to act before it looks obvious to the lay observer that the time is right. The Government should have been preparing for a novel viral pandemic for years and should have built a health service with enough slack in the system to cope with shocks. The Government should have sprung into action into action in January and by early February (when I started writing this series of blogs) every citizen in the land should have been aware of the dangers, should have changed their behaviour and should have been planning for the worst.

Then the worst would not not come about.

While not wishing to compare apples with pears, we now have to accept that the situation has the possibility of being more dangerous to lives in the UK than the Second World War.

And yet. We are getting positive news from China. Suppression of the outbreak appears to be working. Will we now learn form the Chinese experience and take the actions today to suppress the virus here, and clutch victory from the jaws of defeat?



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