Ever since the coronavirus first began to spread in the UK, one of the government’s staunchest critics has been the editor-in-chief of the Lancet, Richard Horton. In late March, he suggested that Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson were playing ‘roulette with the public’ and said on Question Time that the government’s response to the virus was a ‘national scandal’.
— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) March 26, 2020
“It is a national scandal, we shouldn’t be in this position”@RichardHorton1 says the UK has “wasted February” when we should have been preparing the NHS for coronavirus #bbcqt pic.twitter.com/mcwgBJWrxI
In April he argued that the government would blame health experts for its ‘catastrophic’ policy failures. He has suggested the government’s failure to act in February caused ‘chaos and panic across the NHS’ and meant ‘patients will die unnecessarily. NHS staff will die unnecessarily.’
But Mr S has spotted that Horton seems to be far more forgiving when it comes to other countries’ response to the virus. Yesterday, the Lancet chief appeared on the Chinese news show Xinwen Lianbo. The programme is produced by the state-owned broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).
While most of Horton’s interview on the show appeared to be heavily edited, and was translated directly by the news anchor, at various points the Lancet editor could be heard praising China’s ‘innovation’ and response to the virus, saying:
“‘China’s decision to lockdown Wuhan showed that the government acted tremendously decisively in the face of an acute emergency.’
Horton added that it was ‘very disappointing’ to see politicians ‘who are unfortunately damaging the prospects of international collaboration by being so openly critical of other countries, such as China.’
Remarkably, the Lancet editor was even more direct when it came to ‘accusations’ against other countries. He explained that:
“‘This is a threat to the health of our populations – nothing more, nothing less. We should be working together to face down this threat. I don’t want to see accusations thrown at countries. It’s not helpful, it’s not going to advance peace and development. It’s not going to solve the challenge.’
Which is probably just as well, considering China lied about the initial spread of the disease, covered up evidence of human-to-human transmission, and silenced the doctor Li Wenliang who tried to warn the world about coronavirus, and who died from the disease shortly afterwards.
Clearly though Horton's rule doesn’t apply closer to home…