Carl Heneghan

The ten worst Covid decision-making failures

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Getty images)

Dealing with a pandemic requires a clear aim, planning, intelligence and supreme flexibility to react to the unknown. However, ever since reports broke in the West of a newly-identified virus in Wuhan in January, this has not been the case in Britain. The result? We have suffered a very high death toll, and substantial social and economic damage has been inflicted on our society. It did not need to be this way. Our Covid-19 outcome could have been very different if certain mistakes were not made. Here we list some of the major decision-making blunders made over the last eight months.

1. Lack of a clear aim

In March, Health Secretary Matt Hancock set out ‘to protect the NHS by building it up and flattening the curve. And to protect life by safeguarding those who are most vulnerable.’ As it became increasingly clear that the NHS wasn’t overwhelmed, however, the aim became muddied.

A grown-up debate between suppression and control of the spread of Covid-19 has not been played out. Hancock considers suppressing Covid is the only way until the cavalry (a vaccine) arrives.

Leaving aside the issue of whether we can suppress a respiratory virus (let’s not forget that we have not achieved that with influenza, despite decades of trying), the suppression ‘plan’ completely ignores the harms of lockdown on the mental, physical, economic and social wellbeing of the country. The original objective of preventing the overwhelming of hospitals was lost as we exited lockdown; a clear and well-articulated alternative has still not replaced it.

2. Wasted efforts

Not having a clear objective has meant Britain has spread its efforts too thinly in tackling Covid-19. This can be seen in the chaotic efforts to increase testing. So far the UK has done over 30 million tests, nearly one test for every two people.

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