COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom
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The COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The virus reached the country in late January 2020.
Quotes in chronological order
- Herd immunity, protect the economy, and if that means some pensioners die, too bad.
- Dominic Cummings, senior adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaking about pandemics containment strategy on a government meeting. Coronavirus: ten days that shook Britain — and changed the nation for ever, 22 March 2020.
- Callousness, incompetence, and cynicism — the British government's response to the coronavirus has demonstrated all three. Despite the public outcry against the inhuman "herd immunity" strategy and the resulting changes in government policy, major threats to public health, living standards, and political freedoms remain. We have a continuing refusal to institute mass testing; an economic package that prioritises profits over workers' economic security; insane policies that deny proper protection to health workers; and a new law to restrict democratic rights. All this reveals a government and economic system incapable of defending ordinary people and forever prioritising profit. As well, the Tories are absolutely mendacious in their empty and meaningless promises to "do everything necessary".
- Those in power are afraid the crisis will expose the reality of NHS under-resourcing and creeping privatisation. Because of Tory underfunding there are not enough testing kits, not enough protective suits, not enough ventilators, not enough staff, not enough, not enough — even though they have known for a quarter of a century that a major pandemic was a clear and present danger. Even now, if they chose, a government invoking near-wartime powers could fix these shortages rapidly by requiring companies to shift production to the needs of fighting the virus. [...] But it involves massive resources, a society-wide strategy to defeat the virus, and that is something the government is not prepared to envisage. The Tories are terrified by any kind of mass mobilisation from below — because it would marginalise elites and empower ordinary people.
- The Boris Johnson government's initial response to COVID-19 was the now discredited policy of "herd immunity" — the strategy of letting the virus rip through the population, infecting up to 40 million people, most of whom would recover and then supposedly be immune to the virus. The only problem was that this would have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths — a prospect the Tories had to abandon in the face of expert denunciation and widespread public outrage. Johnson's change of tack was to move finally towards lockdown, advising against mass gatherings and urging people to avoid clubs, pubs, and restaurants — and most travel — as well as advising older people to self isolate. (And of course, it was only 'advisory' – so that finance capital does not have to foot the bill for hundreds of thousands of insurance claims from small businesses.)
- But this has still left a gaping hole in government virus strategy. First, the World Health Organization (WHO) advice — "test, test, test" — is not being implemented. Health workers who were being organised to take on this role were almost immediately stood down. Everything is being done in secrecy: there is no openness, no transparency, no grown-up debate, no democratic scrutiny, no public accountability. We can only guess at the reason. Perhaps they realised it was hopeless because they didn’t have the testing kits. Perhaps it dawned on them that mass testing would reveal the vast numbers already infected and thus expose the scale of their negligence. What is certain is that willful blindness is central to Tory policy. There is virtually no testing anywhere. The WHO policy that you test, you trace, you isolate, you contain is being TOTALLY ignored by the Johnson/Cummings regime. They are not even testing health workers.
- This is putting thousands of health workers at risk, and essentially abandoning hundreds of them to catch the virus, to spread the virus, and in many cases to die. The experts in a health emergency are, of course, the health workers. But they are silenced by the Tories and the NHS bosses — threatened with dismissal if caught telling the truth to the public they serve — as if we were living in Stalinist China.
- Without mass testing, tracing, and isolating, you cannot contain. So everything else — the ban on mass gatherings, the school closures, the lockdown measures — all of it, of course, too late — amount to only half a strategy. In fact, all the signs are that they haven't really let go of their callous notion that people with "underlying" health conditions should be treated as expendable. But that is not just a few old people. About 43% of adults are reckoned to have at least one long-term health condition — disproportionately, of course, poorer people.
- The Tories have proposed a huge economic package to help companies, but their support for working people sacked, laid off, or forced to self-isolate is pitiful. [...] Nothing is being offered to workers who are simply sacked or forced to take unpaid leave. This includes around 5 million "gig economy" workers, many of them subject to phoney "self-employed" scams, many with "zero hours" contracts. And there are firms like delivery company DPD, which is insisting that employees who self-isolate will still have to pay the costs of renting their vans and equipment. This is the bitter fruit for working people of 40 years of neoliberal attacks on their unions, their employment rights, their terms and conditions of service.
- The Tories and New Labour have created a casualised, insecure, low-wage economy in which the bosses rule and workers are forced to take what they can get. Millions will find themselves with no income. When they try to claim benefits, they will find in place a ruthless regime of cuts, sanctions and suicidal despair — another achievement of Tory austerity. The most that Johnson has said about this so far is that claimants will not need to attend job-centre interviews any more. And what of expenditure? There is vague talk of a "mortgage holiday" and even vaguer talk of renters not being evicted during the crisis. But no talk of all the other payments that should be suspended, including, of course, utilities bills and other fixed household charges. Meanwhile, the profiteers are marking up the prices on goods in short supply — hand sanitiser, paracetemol, toilet roll, etc — and, needless to say, the Tories have done absolutely nothing to control prices.
- In any case, there is no evidence that the Tories have any intention of doing any of the things they say they will do. The "do everything necessary" rhetoric is bullshit. It’s just a mantra to hide the absence of concrete action and any enforcement mechanism. This can only get much worse, as the entire world economy nosedives, millions more are laid off, and we enter a period of catastrophic social breakdown comparable with the Great Depression. The Tories know this is coming. They are preparing for it.
- In the immediate period, millions in the hospitality industry, in leisure and tourism, in retail and services, and in aviation are being laid off without pay or fired outright. But the entire edifice of global finance is crumbling and we could easily see a generalised economic collapse across the entire system. Talk of the irrationality of capitalism is being posted everywhere. Extensive industrial collapse could create millions of unemployed. A banking collapse would impoverish millions more at a stroke. This is what the government's authoritarian new bill is preparing for — a repetition in Britain and on a global scale of the kind of economic and social collapse that happened in Argentina in 2001–2, when most working-class and middle-class people lost all their savings and millions lost their jobs. Mass social and political anger could shake the system to its foundations, and those in power are preparing for emergency measures against radical "subversives" — left-wing activists, trade unionists, social activists — liable to lead mass resistance. This, it seems, could take the form of mass detention without trial.
- The utterly shambolic response of ruling elites to the coronavirus crisis in both Britain and the US is symptomatic of neoliberalism — of 40 years of profiteering, of grotesque greed, of privatisation of public services, of contempt for ordinary people and their needs. The Tories, presiding over this travesty, will not only try to ride out the storm; they will seek to use the crisis to strengthen the wealth and power of the very people who are responsible for it. This is what happened in 2008. It must not happen again. We need to be absolutely clear. We will not be dictated to by the rich, the Tories, and the police. We will not have our health workers put at risk. We will not have our loved ones killed to protect big business. We will not tolerate their lies, cover-ups and negligence. We will not let them use this crisis to smash democracy so they can continue to siphon wealth to the top. The time has come to put an end to neoliberalism. This crisis is a radical opportunity. Another system is possible. Another system is a necessity.
- It's quite unusual for a government to publish a plan with things in it we hope we won't have to do. [...] It's far too early to be able to tell in that instance. What we can say for sure is that, right now, we do not recommend the cancelling of mass events, and schools as well should not be closing unless there is both a positive case and the school has had the advice to close from Public Health England.
- So, right now, as long as you wash your hands more often, that is the number one thing you can do to keep you and the country safe. [...] The scientific advice is that the impact of shaking hands is negligible and what really matters is that you wash your hands more often.
- I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands. People obviously can make up their own minds but I think the scientific evidence is… our judgement is that washing your hands is the crucial thing.
- Boris Johnson, at a press conference, as quoted in U.K. Leader Boris Johnson Boasts He Has Shaken Hands With Coronavirus Patients by Khaleda Rahman, 3 March 2020, Newsweek.
- I want to stress that for the vast majority of the people of this country, we should be going about our business as usual.
- Boris Johnson, as quoted in Coronavirus: Up to fifth of UK workers 'could be off sick at same time', 3 March 2020, BBC News.
- We are telling cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not to open tomorrow. To be clear they can continue to provide take out services. Night clubs, theatres, gyms and leisure centres should close on the same time scale. These are places where people come together and indeed the whole purpose is to bring people together. Some people will be tempted to go out tonight. Please don't. You may think you are invincible bit there is no guarantee you will get mild symptoms. As far as possible we want you to stay at home - that's how we can protect our NHS and save lives.
- According to the Director-General of the WHO, the choice to abandon systematic testing and contract tracing, which were effective in Korea and Taiwan, was a major mistake that contributed to the spread of the virus in virtually every country. [...] On the basis of the fatalist and crypto-Darwinian strategy of "herd immunity." Boris Johnson's United Kingdom was entirely passive in its initial approach.
- Christian Laval and Pierre Dardot, The pandemic as political trial: the case for a global commons (March 28, 2020), ROAR Magazine
- When Neil Ferguson visited the heart of British government in London’s Downing Street, he was much closer to the COVID-19 pandemic than he realized. Ferguson, a mathematical epidemiologist at Imperial College London, briefed officials in mid-March on the latest results of his team’s computer models, which simulated the rapid spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 through the UK population. Less than 36 hours later, he announced on Twitter that he had a fever and a cough. A positive test followed. The disease-tracking scientist had become a data point in his own project.
Ferguson is one of the highest-profile faces in the effort to use mathematical models that predict the spread of the virus — and that show how government actions could alter the course of the outbreak. “It’s been an immensely intensive and exhausting few months,” says Ferguson, who kept working throughout his relatively mild symptoms of COVID-19. “I haven’t really had a day off since mid-January.”
Research does not get much more policy-relevant than this. When updated data in the Imperial team’s model indicated that the United Kingdom’s health service would soon be overwhelmed with severe cases of COVID-19, and might face more than 500,000 deaths if the government took no action, Prime Minister Boris Johnson almost immediately announced stringent new restrictions on people’s movements. The same model suggested that, with no action, the United States might face 2.2 million deaths; it was shared with the White House and new guidance on social distancing quickly followed.
- David Adam (additional reporting by Richard Van Noorden); “Special report: The simulations driving the world’s response to COVID-19”, Nature, (02 April 2020, correction 03 April 2020), 580, pp.316-318
- Media reports have suggested that an update to the Imperial team’s model in early March was a critical factor in jolting the UK government into changing its policy on the pandemic. The researchers initially estimated that 15% of hospital cases would need to be treated in an intensive-care unit (ICU), but then updated that to 30%, a figure used in the first public release of their work on 16 March. That model showed the UK health service, with just over 4,000 ICU beds, would be overwhelmed.
Government officials had previously talked up a theory of allowing the disease to spread while protecting the oldest in society, because large numbers of infected people would recover and provide herd immunity for the rest. But they changed their course on seeing the new figures, ordering social-distancing measures. Critics then asked why social distancing hadn’t been discussed earlier, why widespread testing hadn’t happened, and why modellers had even chosen the 15% figure, given that a January paper showed that more than 30% of a small group of people with COVID-19 in China needed treatment in ICUs.
Ferguson says the significance of the model update might have been exaggerated. Even before that, he says, models already indicated that COVID-19, if left entirely unmitigated, could kill in the order of half a million UK citizens over the next year and that ICUs would be stretched beyond capacity. Advisory teams had discussed suppressing the pandemic by social distancing, but officials were worried that this would only lead to a bigger second outbreak later in the year. Widespread testing of the kind seen in South Korea was not considered; but, in part, says Ferguson, this was because Britain’s health agency had told government advisers that it would not be able to scale up testing fast enough.
As for the Chinese data on ICUs, clinicians had looked at them, but noted that only half the cases seemed to need invasive mechanical ventilators; the others were given pressurized oxygen, so might not need an ICU bed. On the basis of this and their experience with viral pneumonia, clinicians had advised modellers that 15% was a better assumption.
The key update came the week before Ferguson briefed government officials at Downing Street. Clinicians who had been talking to horrified colleagues in Italy said that pressurized oxygen wasn’t working well and that all 30% of the severe hospitalized cases would need invasive ventilation in an ICU. Ferguson says the updated models’ mortality projections didn’t change hugely, because many predicted deaths are likely to occur in the community rather than in hospitals. But the understanding of how health services would be overwhelmed, and the experience of Italy, led to a “sudden focusing of minds”, he says: government officials swiftly pivoted to social-distancing measures.
- David Adam (additional reporting by Richard Van Noorden); “Special report: The simulations driving the world’s response to COVID-19”, Nature, (02 April 2020, correction 03 April 2020), 580, pp.316-318
- You are saving lives by staying at home, so I urge you to stick with it this weekend, even if we do have some fine weather.
- We have so far succeeded in the first and most important task we set ourselves as a nation to avoid the tragedy that engulfed other parts of the world.
- At this stage I do not think that the international comparisons and the data are yet there to draw the conclusions that we want.
- Figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show male taxi cab drivers and chauffeurs had higher rates of deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales. Higher than doctors, nurses and care workers.
Scientists believe private-hire drivers are particularly at risk - and the longer the journey, the bigger the risk.
"Unlike black cabs, there is no physical barrier separating the driver and the passengers," says Dr Joe Grove, a virologist at University College London.
"People are close together and if the windows aren't open, the air can be quite stagnant.
"An infected passenger releases microscopic droplets containing the virus. Even after they've left the car, the virus will remain."
Sociologist Dr Mark Williams from Queen Mary University of London says taxi and private-hire drivers are among the worst hit because they face many risk factors.
"They can't do their job from home, and their job makes it hard to socially distance, but they're also self-employed so need to work."
- Anna Collinson, “Coronavirus: Taxi drivers 'unprotected' against Covid-19”, BBC, (26 June, 2020)
- I recently had dinner at a friend’s house where the number of guests eventually exceeded five. I understand that remaining at the dinner was a breach of the rule of six. I apologise for my mistake
- Jeremy Corbyn and Stanley Johnson apologise for Covid breaches published 1 October, 2020
- In this country, as across much of Europe, the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst case scenario of our scientific advisers.
- If we fail to take action, then there is a real risk of depriving non-Covid patients of the care that they need from the NHS (1/10)
- He will carry on working from Downing Street, including on leading the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The prime minister will follow the rules and is self-isolating
- a spokesman for the Boris Johnson said according to British PM Boris Johnson self-isolating after contact with positive COVID-19 case published November 15, 2020
- The findings show cases were rising as the country entered lockdown, but this was followed by a decrease as national measures successfully lowered infection rates across the country
- health department according to England's COVID-19 infections down 30% during national lockdown: survey published November 29, 2020
- I think there is a good chance that we will look back on today as the decisive turning point in the fight against the coronavirus
- National Health Service chief, after the first Briton and the very first person worldwide received an approved vaccine against the coronavirus according to COVID-19: VK begint als eerste land met vaccinatieprogramma December 9, 2020
- Over the last few days, thanks to our world class genomic capability in the UK, we have identified a new variant of coronavirus which may be associated with the faster spread in the south-east of England. Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants.
- Matt Hancock, UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, according to New Covid Variant Is Spreading More Quickly, Matt Hancock Says+video Published December 14, 2020
- London faces its toughest Christmas since the war and the whole city will need to pull together to see us through this terrible period
- Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London , London's mayor: Government made 'irresponsible promises' about Christmas December 19, 2020
- Given that there is currently a lack of evidence to indicate the extent to which the new virus variant is spread outside the UK
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) posted December 20, 2020
- This means that if you come to this country, you must have proof of a negative Covid test that you've taken in the 72 hours before leaving. And you must have filled in your passenger locator form, and your airline will ask for proof of both before you take off
- Boris Johnson in UK announces closure of all travel corridors starting Monday January 15, 2021
- In addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant - the variant that was first identified in London and the south east - may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.
- Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine Demonstrates 89.3% Efficacy in UK Phase 3 Trial
- Novavax according to Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine Effective, But Less So Against Variant In South Africa January 28, 2021