This is a pretty intense competition. Which first world country dominated by science denying narcissistic personality disordered leadership is making the biggest botch up of Covid?
For a long time the good old US of A that held this position. But no more. It seems that enough of the States are taking sufficiently stringent action so that its infection rate has plateaued although a recent further surge must be worrying.
Meanwhile the United Kingdom has become a basket case. Hospitals in London are approaching capacity and a leaked email confirms that the Royal London Hospital is operating in disaster medicine mode and is unable to provide high standard critical care.
Things are that bad Boris Johnson has announced the strongest lockdown the UK has had since last March.
This must hurt. He had been playing politics with the issue for so long, measuring up the potential political damage to his administration caused by listening to the scientists as compared to the threat of an unabated pandemic being set loose. He should have locked the country down well before Christmas when news of the new more easily spreadable strain of the virus emerged. Waiting these three weeks have seen numbers of new infections surge to well over 50,000 cases per day and per head of population England and Northern Ireland are now far worse than in America.
If you want the starkest contrast the daily rate of infection per head of population in Northern Ireland is twice that of the rest of Ireland despite both nations being part of the same island.
Johnson has finally relented and shut all schools down. But you get the feeling the decision was forced.
From Jessica Elgot and Peter Martin at the Guardian:
England will enter its toughest nationwide lockdown since March, with schools closed until mid-February, as Boris Johnson warned that the weeks ahead “will be the hardest yet”.
As new figures put the UK on course to exceed 100,000 Covid-related deaths before the end of the month without urgent action, the prime minister said once again that people must stay at home, with exercise limited to once a day. All non-essential shops were told to close from Monday night.
The lockdown will last for at least seven weeks, with measures to be reviewed during half-term week. Any relaxation would not come into effect before 22 February.
Just a day after urging millions of pupils to return to the classroom, Johnson announced all schools would switch to remote learning until the February half-term, and GCSE and A-level exams were unlikely to go ahead as planned.
The prime minister said parents would “reasonably ask why we did not make this decision sooner”, adding: “I completely understand the inconvenience and distress this late change will cause millions of parents and pupils up and down the country.”
This speaks volumes about Tory selfishness. Personal disruption to them and their ilk s more concerning than the deaths of 100,000 fellow britons.
The restrictions appear to be similar to New Zealand’s but with some strange anomalies. From the BBC:
People in England will have to stay at home and only go out for essential reasons. Primary and secondary schools will move to online learning for all pupils apart from vulnerable and keyworker children.
- Work or volunteering where it is “unreasonable” to work from home. This includes work in someone else’s home, such as that carried out by social workers, nannies, cleaners and tradespeople
- Education, training, childcare and medical appointments and emergencies
- Exercise outdoors (limited to once a day). This includes meeting one other person from another household in an open public space to exercise
- Shopping for essentials such as food and medicine
- Communal religious worship
- Meeting your support or childcare bubble. Children can also move between separated parents
- Activities related to moving house
New Zealand’s lockdown rules were quite clear for business. Unless you were a vital industry you had to close, no ifs no buts. Imagine having a requirement that it has to be “unreasonable” to work from home. This leaves things far too open.
And why have the opportunity to meet one person from outside your bubble for exercise? A bubble should be a bubble.
And why permit communal religious worship? Crowding lots of people in crowded rooms and having lots of singing and the sharing of food and wine surely has downside. Have they not heard about our Mt Roskill Church bubble? Is Boris thinking that some divine intervention will occur and prevent the virus from spreading? Of note Nicola Sturgeon has closed churches even though Scotland’s rate of infection is much lower than England’s.
And why is getting into England so easy? People travelling to England from many locations only have to self isolate for 10 days but if they get a negative test from a hand picked group of providers after day 5 of their return then this period can be shortened. By contrast Scotland only allows people with an essential purpose to enter the country and this even applies to Donald Trump.
The contrast and the timing to New Zealand’s response is startling. Kiwi resident in the UK Todd Atticus has said this:
When Johnson dithered over whether to keep schools open, Britain felt gloomier than ever. With a third lockdown ordered, we’re scarcely better off now than we were in March. And winter has made things even harder. It feels especially galling queuing outside a supermarket in sub-zero temperatures, or going for a run in the rain because gyms have been closed yet again. At this stage, I’d give anything to have a healthy slice of Wellington normality, good day or no.
It is clear to me that these alternate realities aren’t just dumb luck or geographical good fortune. They are the result of different political choices. The virus arrived on Kiwi shores in the exact same way it did around the world. And it continues to do so on a regular basis with returning New Zealanders, who head straight into isolation. Already six cases of the new highly infectious variants have been apprehended in managed isolation facilities on arrival from the UK and South Africa.
The crucial difference is that, unlike in Britain, nothing is left to chance. Ardern drew a red line. Her government was resolute. In “going hard, going early”, the lives of New Zealanders were paramount.
Everyone in the world has been reminded of the power the state has to reshape our lives. For us Brits that power has been the regional tier system, shutting shops and pubs, paying or not paying wages in the furlough scheme, deciding whether or not you can get a haircut. But in New Zealand, political power used well has created a whole alternative reality – the old normal that we in Britain so long for. The lesson is not that New Zealand is a lucky country, but that with good governance nations make their own luck.
Johnson’s measures are too weak and too late. He should have pressed the panic button when the new strain was discovered in September last year. SEPTEMBER! Or when a quarter of new cases in London were from the new strain in November last year he should have then taken urgent measures.
But no, he dithered. He let his decision making get clouded by politics, and when you are on the right this is an extremely dangerous thing to do.
As an adjunct to this post the Government has decided that instead of receiving two anti viral shots within three weeks as recommended by the manufacturer they will spread the shots out. More people will get a single shot this way but the efficacy of the treatment is untested. This really feels like a bean counter/politician response to an inability to deliver on the promised number of vaccines and again runs the risk that the overall effects of the response will be too weak and too late.
The next few weeks will tell but right now England’s future looks bleak.