There is a lot to be critical about the approach of UK government to covid 19. The long initial delay of months before anything was done – first, a COBRA meeting. The useless “herd immunity” stuff and flawed modelling that first did not take account of the number of fatalities that letting it rip would cause and followed that by the worse blunder of excluding from modelling the effect of mass testing, the well-known and well tried method of controlling pandemics.
Then there was the failure to follow the advice in the 2011 report into policies to be adopted in the event of a flu epidemic in the UK. Among the recommendations not followed was to be prepared by having enough ventilators. It was unacceptable for political reasons relating to Brexit to the UK government to seek ventilators through the EU when that was offered to it. To cover possible embarrassment and criticism over this, there was a lie about missing the email that contained the offer.
At last, the UK government and the Scottish government are being challenged over the failure to follow WHO on testing for covid 19. The British Medical Journal has entered the fray. It says: “On 24 February, there were nine confirmed cases of covid-19 in the UK. On the same day, the World Health Organization recommended countries outside China with imported cases or outbreaks “prioritize active, exhaustive case finding and immediate testing and isolation, painstaking contact tracing and rigorous quarantine of close contacts.”1
On 22 March—when there were 5683 confirmed UK cases—Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies programme, repeated the message on the BBC: “What we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus, and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them.”
This is entirely unexceptional. Case finding, contact tracing and testing, and strict quarantine are the classic tools in public health to control infectious diseases. WHO says they have been painstakingly adopted in China, with a high percentage of identified close contacts completing medical observation. In Singapore, Vietnam, and South Korea meticulous contact tracing combined with clinical observation plus testing were vital in containing the disease. This combined with strong measures to enforce isolation for travellers returning from high incidence areas obviated the need for a national lockdown and closure of all schools in Taiwan and Singapore.23”
Today, with a low profile R4 at last started to get to grips with the issue of testing. Professor Anthony Costello was invited for a brief interview.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000gtm1 From about 1.34 in.
Readers here will know that Professor Pollock has been writing to the Scottish government urging it to undertake widespread testing. I have not heard anything that suggests it is able to do so or wants to do so.
There are questions to be asked about where responsibility about taking this kind of decision lies in an emergency such as this. Control of an emergency is a reserved matter. It seems plain enough that, as Professor Pollock and others have pointed out, a one-size fits all approach is not appropriate.