The report of two parliamentary committees on the management of the coronavirus crisis will finally only confirm what many Britons had observed during the first weeks of the pandemic. Namely the disastrous myopia of the Johnson government and its catastrophic management of events.
Important detail, this 150-page report based on 400 interviews with key players in the pandemic, and published on October 12, also implicates the scientists who advised the government. In his defense, Boris Johnson therefore did not take a decision against the advice of his scientific council, but followed his recommendations, which unfortunately turned out to be unfortunate. As summarized on Tuesday The Times : “The whole chain of decision-making at the top of the state has failed.” And to conclude, with a very dark humor: “It is to be bet that for the next world disaster, whether it is about a nuclear explosion or solar radiations, the error of appreciation is already in the process of be committed somewhere in the corridors of power … ”
While European countries took much stricter positions from the start of the pandemic, British scientists have advocated half measures. And yet, recalls the parliamentary report, they had from the start modeled forecasts from Imperial College London predicting half a million victims in the event of non-containment.
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We now know that the sluggishness of the actions taken at the start of the epidemic, for example the fact of not testing the elderly with symptoms and letting them return to their retirement home after a stay in hospital, has helped spread the virus to their peers and healthcare workers. To sum up, British parliamentarians believe that this is “one of the biggest public health failures in the history of the country” having cost needlessly thousands of lives. Indeed, with more than 138,000 deaths linked to Covid, Great Britain is one of the most bereaved countries in the world in proportion to its population.
In question, according to Greg Clark, president of the parliamentary Committee Science & Technology, “the idea according to which the population refuses to comply with too restrictive measures.” It reigned in fact among political decision-makers, senior officials and scientists, a deleterious “fatalism”, but also an Anglocentric vision refusing to take into consideration the strategy of neighboring countries. The report ends with another record, this one very contrasted: the “major failure” of the testing and tracing system put in place by the National Health Service (NHS, the public health service) and the “triumph” of the vaccination campaign, the first in the world, started on December 1, 2020.
Delay in adolescent vaccination
Today, however, and despite its initial success, the Johnson government’s vaccination strategy is questionable. With nearly 40,000 infections per day, Great Britain has known for several weeks an infection rate twelve times higher than France, Italy and Spain. The end of social distancing and the wearing of masks on public transport, for example, as well as the lack of a health pass in England (while it was adopted in Wales and Scotland) are singled out.
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For the modeler and professor at University College London Christina Pagel, head of the Operational Research Clinical Unit, it is the delay in vaccination of adolescents that explains the current outbreak, especially in schools. A delay due to the unfavorable opinion of a committee of government scientists and which the executive ended up ignoring due to the alarming daily figures. For Christina Pagel, “the vaccination of three million adolescents in Great Britain is essential not only to protect them but also to prevent contamination in schools and universities.“ However, today, only 70% of 16-17 year olds have received a first dose while 12-15 year olds only started to be vaccinated at the end of September. Great Britain is not at the end of its troubles.