Oh, if only we had listened to Richard Horton sooner. That seemed to be the message that the editor-in-chief of the Lancet was trying to get across on Question Time when he lambasted the government for failing to get to grips with the coronavirus crisis.
Yes, if you had tuned in to the popular BBC discussion show last night, you'd have been forgiven for thinking that Horton had spent most of 2020 desperately campaigning for us all to take coronavirus more seriously. He told viewers:
'Honestly, I'm sorry to say this, but it's a national scandal. We shouldn't be in this position. We knew in the last week of January that this was coming. The message from China was absolutely clear that a new virus with pandemic potential was hitting cities, people were being admitted to hospital, admitted to intensive care units and dying.
'And the mortality was growing, we knew that eleven weeks ago. Then we wasted February when we could have acted - time when we could have ramped up testing, time when we could have got personal protective equipment ready and disseminated. We did not do it.'
So, what was Mr Horton telling us all in the last week of January?
— richard horton (@richardhorton1) January 24, 2020
A call for caution please. Media are escalating anxiety by talking of a “killer virus” + “growing fears”. In truth, from what we currently know, 2019-nCoV has moderate transmissibility and relatively low pathogenicity. There is no reason to foster panic with exaggerated language.
Whatever Mr Horton is suffering from, one symptom is clearly amnesia...