The coronavirus situation in the UK is deteriorating by the day as the country suffers another large surge with case numbers rapidly increasing. Lockdown measures are having to be reintroduced throughout the country and there are fears that the economy will struggle to bounce back from a winter of isolation.
As cases fell over the summer and life seemed to be returning to at least some semblance of normality, consumer confidence rose steadily and the UK economy began to recover. Now, it has been revealed that the economic growth was slower than expected, despite government schemes encouraging people to support various industries.
With cases rising dramatically again and the country facing the prospect of a bleak Covid-dominated winter, the economy will likely falter again and many may find themselves without a job.
“The government is operating under the misguided, arrogant and counterproductive view that ‘Whitehall knows best’, that decisions can be made behind closed doors, without any real consultation or even picking up the phone to those on the frontline,” opposition leader Keir Starmer said of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s efforts to battle the pandemic.
“We don’t need a world-beating testing system, we just need one that works.”
“I think they’ve lost control of the virus,” Starmer said. “And I don’t want to see death rates go up. Nobody does. And the government doesn’t. I’m not suggesting that for a minute.
“But this is serial incompetence. And the test, trace and isolate system was abandoned in early March if you recall because they said they didn’t have the capacity. It took them months to get back to even trying to set up a system. And they haven’t got an effective working system.
“There isn’t a strategy. There’s a vacuum there. And that’s because there’s division in the
cabinet as to which strategy they should be following. I’m reflecting, I think, what people in those communities feel. This deep sense of despondence, anxiety. And actually, what they want is hope.”
Bars in Scotland have been temporarily banned from selling alcohol to customers inside and it is likely that similar, or more severe measures will soon be introduced south of the border. In the North of England, households are currently unable to mix and various leisure facilities are once again temporarily closing.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has, however, attempted to soften the blow of news of the second surge by claiming the UK can face the winter ‘with confidence’ as it is much more prepared than it was when the pandemic first struck in March.
The country now has a four-month supply of personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns and visors and is on track for the government’s target of 500,000 tests per day by the end of October. 2,000 beds sit ready to be used in seven Nightingale hospitals across the UK, which are critical care temporary hospitals established by NHS England as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in England.
Additionally, the number of ventilators has trebled to over 31,000 in the last six months.
“It is now clear the second wave is here. Infections, hospital cases and deaths are all rising.
But what happens next is the big unknown. The doomsday scenario of a doubling of cases every week that was put forward last week is not materialising,” BBC health expert Nick Triggle said.
“The increase in hospital admissions is even more gradual – and the total numbers being admitted are more than 10 times lower than they were at the peak. It points to a slower, less severe wave this time round. But it is still early days.
“We are just at the start of the autumn and winter period when respiratory viruses circulate more. The situation could easily unravel. However, the UK, like other countries, is in a much stronger position than we were when we walked blind into the first wave,” Triggle continued.
“Better treatments are in place, social distancing has become routine and – despite the problems – there is much more testing available.
“The odds are certainly stacked in our favor more than they were six months ago.”
The situation is similar throughout Europe as a large number of countries face a second surge as we head into the winter months. Last week, Spanish authorities placed lockdown measures on 5 million of its population but a court has since overturned the decision, escalating political tensions in the county.
A large portion of Europe has had to reintroduce at least some lockdown measures and the entirety of the Brussels regional government has been forced into self-isolation after an outbreak. The Czech Republic set records for daily cases on three separate occasions last week and in the Netherlands, dozens of people have been arrested in The Hague during a protest against new Covid measures.