It is no secret that some countries have fared better than others during the current pandemic, with confirmed cases and deaths of Covid-19 higher in some countries than others.
One success is New Zealand who, thanks to reacting early to the crisis, has announced that the country no longer has any cases of coronavirus.
Unfortunately the UK has not been so successful. As of June 12 they have had the second highest number of coronavirus deaths – over 41,000 – coming in second only to America where more than 116,000 people have lost their lives.
While many around the world, and indeed in the UK itself, have laid the blame squarely at the feet of the country’s government and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, their own government has hit back.
As the numbers of confirmed cases has continued to grow the government’s decision to put a lockdown in place has been criticized, as experts believe that the lockdown was implemented too late into the crisis. However Conservative party minister Simon Clark has retaliated, stating that the reason the UK was so severely hit was instead due to the country’s vulnerability thanks to the high numbers of international travelers that they receive into the country each day.
The housing minister said, “The truth is that Britain was always going to be hugely exposed to this virus because of some of the features of our society. We are a global travel hub – we were always going to face big challenges.”
Yet when pressed further Mr Clarke denied that his statement was the proof needed that the UK government should have imposed quarantine rules when they introduced lockdown in March, rather than waiting until the middle of June. While the majority of the world closed their borders in an attempt to stem the spread of coronavirus the UK government continued to allow people to travel into the country without testing, a move, which many citizens of the UK believe, should not have been allowed.
As of Monday June 15, anyone entering the UK will have to adhere to a 14 day quarantine period, however unlike some countries where people were put into hotels for the two weeks, the UK are allowing travelers to self-isolate in their own homes. While this appears to be a cost effective measure for the already stretched UK government, concerns have been raised over how travelers will get to their homes from the airports and ferry terminals.
Waiting until June to impose the isolation was “proportionate in terms of trying to maximize savings of lives and the economy” said Mr Clarke.
However there is fierce criticism that rather than being ‘uniquely exposed to coronavirus’ the UK should in fact have had many advantages to reducing the spread of the virus seeing as that they are an island and could close their borders easier.
Yet the government continued to allow travelers from countries including Spain and Italy, the two countries that had the highest amount of cases at the beginning of the pandemic, to enter the country without being tested. Scientists believe that this is one of the main reasons there were so many infections and deaths within the country.
Epidemiologist expert Neil Ferguson has stated that he believes by introducing lockdown just one week earlier, the UK could have saved up to 25,000 lives.
The former government advisor referred to studies that appeared to show that around 1,500 people in early March were infected with the virus due to a lack of screening when people from Italy and Spain entered the country. Some of the travelers had come to watch a soccer match between the UK’s Liverpool FC and Spain’s Atletico Madrid and experts pinpoint this event as the catalyst for spreading the virus in the region, with Liverpool only having 14 confirmed cases before the game and 309 confirmed cases within the next two weeks.
The study looked at genetic sequences of 20,000 UK coronavirus cases and believes that 14 per cent came from Italy and 29 per cent came from France, while 34 per cent of the cases arrived from Spain, backing the soccer match theory.
However scientists continue to defend their reasons for not implementing lockdown earlier, citing their concerns that the British public would not be able to follow lockdown rules for an extended period.
Professor Ferguson backed up his beliefs saying, “The epidemic was doubling every three to four days before lockdown interventions were introduced. So had we introduced lockdown measures a week earlier we would have reduced the final death toll by at least a half.”
Professor Ferguson is not the only person to slate Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his handling of the pandemic with new Labour leader Keir Starmer criticizing Mr Johnson for his claims that it is still “too early” to determine where, if at all, the government went wrong in the early stages.
After the prime minister said he was “proud” in his government’s response, saying the country dealt with the pandemic in an “astonishing” way, the opposition leader said, “These are among the highest numbers anywhere in the world. Last week, the prime minister said he was proud of the government’s record, but there’s no pride in those figures is there?”