Sir David King, the UK’s former Chief Science Advisor told Byline Times that up to 100,000 lives could have been saved during the coronavirus pandemic if the Government implemented a cohesive, early lockdown during the initial wave of the disease, alongside a more effective ‘Trace and Test’ programme.
Sir David places particular emphasis on the early months of the pandemic – from January to April – as the source of the UK’s high death toll. “You’ve got to get ahead of the pandemic” he said, pointing out that Chinese Scientists published a definitive report on Coronavirus, its transmissions and its effect on humans, on 23 January 2020 – months before Boris Johnson’s Government implemented the first nationwide lockdown.
“If this was the advice of a scientist or a scientist’s group, they must have been thinking in terms of herd immunity,” he added, referring to the idea that a disease should be allowed to spread among non-vulnerable members of a population – in theory allowing them to gain resistance. “I’m over 80, and I really don’t like myself being written-off as of no value to society, because really that’s what it seems we’re saying if we’re going for herd immunity,” he told us, while noting many are now suffering from the debilitating ‘Long COVID’, whereby the symptoms of the virus are retained months after contracting it.
The Government’s second crucial blunder in its response to the pandemic, he said, has been its lack of clarity over the ‘Test and Trace’ programme. The UK’s testing system lagged far behind other countries at the outset of the pandemic – that much is well known – but a more fundamental problem with the systems, Sir David contended, is its lack of isolation support.
“I never heard a minister of Government saying the whole point of testing is to isolate people,” continuing to say “You have to encourage people to go into isolation” – or the system merely doesn’t work, Sir David said.
The UK’s response to the pandemic, in particular the Test and Trace operation, relied heavily on private sector outsourcing. Test and Trace by itself has been allocated a budget of £37 billion this year, much of which has and will be spent on private contractors.“The public health service is the best way to handle a pandemic. You don’t handle it by pumping taxpayers’ money into the private sector without any competition” Said King, pointing out this was the wrong direction driven by an uninformed government.
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