The Government’s response to the first wave of coronavirus is generally regarded as having been “too little, too late”.
While other countries were locking down, Boris Johnson dithered.
On the 16th March he advised people to “avoid” pubs, but it was a full week later before he actually ordered them closed.
This mattered because the virus was accelerating at an exponential rate and every day’s delay counted.
To illustrate this, imagine every person who catches the virus infects just two other people.
If there is one person infected on the first day, there are two on the second and four on the third. By the end of the week there are 64 people infected. That might not sound too bad, but by the end of the second week it will have risen to 8,192.
A delay of only a few days – and in our Government’s case it was more than a few days – can be the difference between containing the virus and it running out of control. It’s the reason why Britain has one of the worst per capita death rates from coronavirus.
It’s also why our lockdown had to last longer than many other countries and why it caused more economic damage.
I had hoped that the Government had learned this lesson, but the new restrictions announced by Boris Johnson last week seem completely out of kilter with the scale of the problem outlined by scientists the day before.
The Scottish and Northern Ireland governments have gone much further: only allowing two households to meet rather than six and not indoors. This would seem to be a much better way of limiting the spread of the disease than say, closing pubs at 10pm, and would not have such a detrimental economic effect.
The Government often complains that the Labour Party’s criticism of its handling of coronavirus is just “hindsight”.
So, I will say this now: the Government has not done enough to slow the spread of the second wave. It will have to impose further restrictions which will be harsher and will cause more damage to the economy than if it had been tougher now.
I hope I am proved wrong, but I fear I won’t be.