One year on from the first lockdown: still not out of the woods

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a blog for Lib Dem Voice on the Government being behind the curve in introducing measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. Little did we know then what was coming then. By 21 March last year, there had already been more than 400 deaths from Covid in UK hospitals , and that seemed shocking at the time. A year later, there have been 125,580 deaths within 28 days of a Covid test  and 143,259 deaths where Covid was listed as the cause on the death certificate (all data in this article are quoted to 15 March 2021). This amounts to one of the highest Covid death rates in the world.

In March 2020, we could never have foreseen so many shortcomings in the Government’s handling of the pandemic: the true scale of PPE shortages and the dubious PPE supply contracts, as featured in the recent BBC Panorama programme Cashing in on Covid; the discharge of people with Covid from a hospital into care homes; the highly ineffective Test & Trace system which has been allocated an eye-watering £37 billion over two years; the Eat out To Help Out Scheme which was linked to between 8% and 17% of new infection clusters in a University of Warwick study; the failure to lock down in mid-September – despite pleas from SAGE when they saw cases starting to rise exponentially; and the fatal Christmas easing of restrictions. Since 1 January alone, there have been a further 47,000 Covid deaths recorded in the UK.

Of course, we could also not have imagined that several vaccines would have been ready for use within a year, an incredible achievement by the scientific community. The NHS has done a truly heroic job in vaccinating more than 24 million people. All staff and volunteers involved deserve so much credit for their hard work and the long hours they have put in to get as many people protected as quickly as possible.

However, the UK chose to go it alone on changing the recommended gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. This does, thankfully, appear to have been a good clinical decision, although the Government has somewhat turned it into a numbers game – “look how well we have done compared to the rest of Europe.” The comparative data presented (even by the media!) has generally been of the number of single doses administered in the UK, compared to the number of full, two-dose courses given in other countries. Also, on a note of caution, recent research carried out by the Francis Crick Institute has shown that more than half of people with cancer may not get much protection after just one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. This situation needs to be closely monitored.

Looking back, the UK Government’s failures, such as they are, come down to some fundamental, often ideological, flaws: a basic lack of preparedness, despite the Operation Cygnus pandemic exercise of 2016, which exposed major gaps in the UK’s would-be pandemic response; the ‘take it on the chin’ mentality right at the start of the pandemic with early references to achieving ‘herd immunity; an ideological unwillingness to involve local government in tracking and tracing people with Covid-19; a complete failure to close our borders for almost a year, allowing cases and new variants a free pass into the UK; the desire to open up the economy at all costs in the summer and autumn of 2020; and, ultimately, not always following the science, despite Government rhetoric about policy being ‘driven by the data’.

In addition, the UK’s high death toll is surely linked to the fact that the UK has a relatively low number of critical care beds compared to other OECD countries, and health inequalities have been rising. The impact of the pandemic has not been felt evenly.

So, what is to come during the rest of this year? The picture is still not clear. A third wave is now hitting Italy, and cases are also rising in Germany, but the UK has vaccinated more people, at least with one dose, so, in theory, we should be better protected. Nonetheless, Sir Ian Diamond, Head of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said a few days ago that a third Covid wave in the Autumn is almost inevitable. There are also more variants on the loose, some of which may be less susceptible to the vaccine, particularly the South Africa variant. There is still much uncertainty.

This all feels a long way from the situation in Australia and New Zealand where they went for a Zero Covid approach for which they are now reaping great rewards, not least, staggeringly lower death tolls, at 909 and 26, respectively. One cannot help but think that if the Government had taken the decisive action needed, when it was needed, to protect the population, so many more lives could have been saved – and the economy might also not have taken such a big hit. It turns out that health and wealth go hand in hand.

* Judy Abel has worked in the health policy field for around 15 years, including at the British Medical Association, for the All-Party Parliamentary Health Group, and in policy roles at Asthma UK, the Neurological Alliance and Versus Arthritis until the end of 2021. She was also the Constituency Office Manager and Senior Caseworker for former Lib Dem MP, Sir Simon Hughes from 2012 to 2014. All views are her own.

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  • Helen Dudden 17th Mar '21 - 4:54pm

    Prevention is better than cure, I could never understand why tourists were still coming from areas that had high Covid infections.
    Yes, they have felt herd immunity was the answer and Cheltenham Festival went ahead.

  • Absolutely agree Helen – Cheltenham going ahead last year was so irresponsible

  • Brad Barrows 17th Mar '21 - 5:56pm

    Though the article continually referred to the ‘government’s’ actions and then quoted UK statistics, the truth is that the governments of the differently countries of the UK have taken different actions at different times, leading to different outcomes. Considering statistics on a UK wide basis is therefore not particularly helpful – directly comparing statistics from the different countries may yield more useful lessons.

  • John Marriott 17th Mar '21 - 7:06pm

    There will undoubtedly be inquiries all over the world when we finally get this particular virus under some sort of control as to the mistakes that have been made both collectively and in individual countries – and could still be made. It’s easy to be wise after the event. Let’s be honest, we really had no idea this time last year what we were really dealing with.

    The inquiry I really want to see is how this particular coronavirus was able to cross the species barrier, if in fact it did. I want to know where it started and when. I also want to know why we weren’t able to control it as we appeared to with other recent viruses that originated in the non human world such as SARS.MERS and avian ‘flu. I suppose we could include Ebola as well. There will undoubtedly be obfuscation in certain quarters – there already is. We really have to learn some hard lessons.

    However, if we don’t want to be burdened with another new and potentially even more dangerous virus when we are still paying the price for and counting the cost of COVID 19 we had better grasp this particular nettle!

  • @Brad You make a good point! Obviously with the population of England being 56m, Scotland being 5.5m, Wales being 3.1m and Northern Ireland being 1.8m, the greatest effects of Covid-19 overall in terms of mortality have been in England, but yes the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations have pursued quite different strategies at times. The more prudent approach taken by Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland for example has meant they have had lower Covid mortality rates per 100,000 and they also have lower overall infection rates now.

    For example, by 21 Jan 2021 (the most recent data I could find) there had been 122.4 deaths per 100,000 people in Scotland, 134.6 in England and 156.8 in Wales. Northern Ireland had the lowest death rate in the UK at 96.6 per 100,000.

  • @John Actually I think we did know what was coming, or should have done. We saw what was happening in Italy and should have been far more cautious, not letting things like the Cheltenham Race meeting go ahead. In the article I wrote in March 2020, simply based on what I had read and heard from the WHO and other reputable sources, it was clear we should have locked down earlier. If Australia has had 909 deaths and we have had 140,000 I think we can say with some certainty that the UK Government got a lot wrong, for example on things like not closing down our borders.

    On the animal to human transmission issue I totally agree. I suspect some of it may come down to very poor standards of animal welfare.

  • John Marriott 17th Mar ’21 – 7:06pm:
    I also want to know why we weren’t able to control it as we appeared to with other recent viruses that originated in the non human world such as SARS.MERS and avian ‘flu.

    SARS (-CoV-1) and MERS only transmit when infected people have symptoms thus making them easier to identify and isolate, whereas most SARS-CoV-2 infections are from infected people who are presymptomatic or asymptomatic…

    SARS-CoV-2 Transmission From People Without COVID-19 Symptoms’ [7th. January 2021]:

    …59% of all transmission came from asymptomatic transmission, comprising 35% from presymptomatic individuals and 24% from individuals who never develop symptoms.

    The findings of this study suggest that the identification and isolation of persons with symptomatic COVID-19 alone will not control the ongoing spread of SARS-CoV-2.

    I suppose we could include Ebola as well.

    Ebola is spread by direct contact with body fluids when infected people have symptoms…

    ‘Ebola transmission: Can Ebola spread through the air?’:

    Ebola virus disease is not transmitted through the air and does not spread through casual contact, such as being near an infected person. Unlike respiratory illnesses, which can spread by particles that remain in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes, Ebola is spread by direct contact with body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola.

    People infected with Ebola aren’t contagious unless they have symptoms.

  • John Marriott 17th Mar '21 - 8:32pm

    OK. So how do we stop another coronavirus from making an appearance in humans?
    @Judy Abel
    The finger of suspicion points to China, it would seem. But will the regime admit it, or any other country for that matter. We called it ‘the Spanish ‘flu’ but it apparently originated in the USA and probably came over to Europe with the ‘doughboys’ at the end of WW1. Unless?

  • @John – I think everyone accepts that the virus originated in Wuhan – the WHO did a fact finding mission to Wuhan in February. I think the current theory is that bats are the most likely carriers and that they passed the virus on to another animal, which then passed it on to humans. As we know the Huanan Seafood Market had a cluster of cases right at the start of the outbreak, which was probably how it all started.

  • John Marriott 17th Mar '21 - 10:15pm

    @Judy Abel
    As I said to ‘Jeff’, OK, so how do we stop History repeating itself? THAT’s what the world needs to concentrate on. Otherwise, how many vaccine shots are we going to face every Autumn?

  • James Fowler 17th Mar '21 - 10:44pm

    While there have been serious failings here in the UK, claiming that events NZ and Australia represent a viable template for what could have happened here is a false analogy.

    In the background, I remain amazed, appalled and saddened at the number of liberals who have valorised a policy which originates from the same intellectual stable as ‘Prison works’ and ‘Total abstinence’. Let’s be clear: Lockdown is the most oppressive, authoritarian, and regressive set of laws in this country in modern history.

    Lockdown should have been greeted with profound regret by liberals. Instead, too often there has been a scramble to get aboard a depressingly chauvinistic bandwagon where lockdown should have been ‘longer, harder and tougher’ and hard line approaches are trotted out admiringly.

    There are various problems with this ‘get tough quick’ approach. In the same way that locking people in prison does not solve crime, lockdown does not solve the virus. It merely displaces the problems and perhaps buys time. Since the virus mutates and comes in waves, ‘getting tough’ with the first wave does not guarantee success with the second, third, fourth, the mutations…

    Back last summer, articles like the one above were busy lauding Germany as the major European country that had successfully ‘cracked down early’. It hardly looks that way now. Ditto Portugal, Hungary, the Czech Republic – now the most dangerous country in world having more or less completed completely evaded the first wave. Doubtless pro-lockdowners will retort that the Czech’s mistake was to relax its prompt lockdown over the summer. This, in a sense, is true. But the implication is that lockdown must endure for… who knows?

    This returns us to NZ and Australia. They are now the equivalent of ‘gated communities’ in the global village and as such, I’m not sure how much I really envy them. Their success – at the cost of eternal vigilance – is, I suspect, a diminishing asset. I have very little time for the claim that Britain, densely populated, poorly housed, in bad health, riven by a political civil war, elderly and at the hub of global travel networks could have evaded successive mutating waves of COVID. I salute the countries that have managed it – so far – but I’m in no rush to lionise them or imagine that we can cherry pick their experience and apply it here.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Mar '21 - 11:13pm

    Worth adding that NZ has no direct flights to Wuhan. A point often overlooked.

    NZ certainly played its hand very well. But it was dealt the best possible cards. European countries simply don’t have that luxury.

  • @James Fowler


    Australia closed it borders to International travel from the outset and required returning citizens to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days.

    They have had relatively low infection rates and deaths and jumped on any new infections quickly

    They managed to escape with only a 4% reduction to GDP.

    Compare that to the UK’s 9.9% reduction and I would say that is convincing Australia did pretty well.

    Had we have taken the same approach, we would probably not had required anywhere near the types of lockdowns we experienced and would not have been so damaging to the economy, along with our successful roll out of the vaccine this year, we would have been in a far better place.

    Yes we are a small Island Nation reliant on imports and exports, but I see no reason why that could not have continued with haulage drivers being exempt.

    Our putting the economy and tourism first, more than likely did more financial damage in the long run.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Mar '21 - 11:40pm

    James Fowler the problem the Czechs ran into (I’ve been there recently) and others in the East too was inevitable. ‘The Science’ always said that all lockdowns likely do is push the virus forward.

    They were very successful early on but all they did was delay, and they did so at untold cost. As we see in Germany test and trace ended up overrun.

    This I think is why some people seem to have developed a muddle headed attachment to NZ. ‘Proof’ that lockdown works in very specific conditions is taken as proof it works anywhere. It is fanciful to treat NZ and Europe on the same footing.

    What’s left is having to admit we destroyed ourselves, our children and our grandchildren, our health service and vast industries to basically tinker round the edges. Psychologically some people just can’t accept that, still less say it. We are sending healthy kids to a pale imitation of school in muzzles to appease the mindset we can restrict our way out.

    The sight of liberals demanding more, harsher longer lockdown is a profoundly depressing glimpse of the future. We are literally at the point where the beating will continue until morale improves.

    But you know it’s only three weeks to flatten the curve.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Mar '21 - 11:42pm


    If you look at the Isle of Man you get an idea how that turns out.

  • Whats your point LJP

    Isle of Man
    total cases per 1 million population 16,204
    total deaths per 1 million pop 305

    compared to the UK
    total cases per 1 million pop 62,734
    total deaths per 1 million pop 1,847

    I would say Isle of Man did pretty well and have lived relatively normal lives with limited circuit breakers.

    I was not suggesting there would be zero cases or zero deaths had we have taken Australia approach.

    But had we have locked down international travel from the very start, quarantined returning citizens, we would not have had anything like the numbers we have seen and would not have required anything like the kind of lockdowns that we had to endure in this country over the last 12 months and restrictions to business, and test and trace would have been far more manageable to jump on and we would not have had an NHS that near collapsed and has created an public health crisis that is going to take years to address

    Hopefully it is a lesson that will be learnt for the future from any inquiry if it actually happens

    Keeping international tourism open was a huge costly mistake

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Mar '21 - 7:07am

    @John Marriott
    “As I said to ‘Jeff’, OK, so how do we stop History repeating itself? THAT’s what the world needs to concentrate on. ”
    Is that possible?

    Isn’t this just the process of evolution?

    As far as we know the ‘objectives’ of a virus include maximising its spread among hosts. If one route of spreading fails viruses will evolve (mutating) into forms which can spread via other routes e.g. different hosts.

    It seems to me a very great deal more co-operation between countries will be needed than seems likely to happen in the foreseeable future. Much prompter sharing of information (and science research facilities) about new diseases. Much less treating other countries as though they were enemies.

  • @James Speaking to friends in Australia about Covid they are pretty happy with the way things have turned out – life is more or less back to normal for them. They were able to stage the Australian Open Tennis in February (I’m a bit of a tennis fan!) with players coming in from all over the world, but strict quarantining of the players on arrival, they can eat out in restaurants, indoors as well as outdoors, the can mostly travel interstate, although the State Governments keep this under review. In Canberra there hasn’t been a case for more than three months.

    In the UK our failure was partly due to the dreadful lack of preparedness which meant many healthcare workers didn’t even have the right PPE at the start of the pandemic – some just working in bin bags. Let’s also not forget that over 850 health and care professionals died treating and caring for Covid patients between March and December 2020 alone (BMJ). There have been further deaths since then. These deaths really matter.

    A report out today by the Resolution Foundation estimated that an additional 27,000 people died simply because we delayed the winter lockdown. So delaying lockdowns only prolongs lockdowns and results in more unnecessary and tragic deaths – and trouble for the economy.

  • @ Matt I totally agree. We failed to close our borders for a year (or at least have proper quarantine measures at airports) allowing more cases to enter the country, including more variants. The strain placed on our healthcare system and staff has been unbelievable because people at the top didn’t have the foresight to lock down earlier right at the start and again in the autumn – and to get the Test and Trace system working properly using public health teams in local Government, rather than the SERCO operation.

    In normal times of course these restrictions would be intolerable, but not being decisive has in the end led to tougher and longer restrictions being needed. It’s people’s lives we are talking about.

  • John Marriott 18th Mar '21 - 9:27am

    I reckon that, as far as this debate is concerned, your “process of evolution” appears to have ignored the elephant in the broom. Or perhaps, are we evolving into a species, whose continued strangulation of natural habitat might eventually lead to our destruction?

    I’ll say it one more time, the ONLY lesson I really want to be learned is how we try to stop any more new virus invasions. Otherwise, we shall be suffering this pandemic version of ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ for ever, while our arms each Autumn will become pin cushions the number of booster vaccinations some of us may require to stay healthy!

  • Little Jackie Paper 18th Mar '21 - 9:34am

    John Marriott.

    It is an interesting question and there are obviously a lot of conspiracy ideas out there.

    For my part I do not believe that this was man made. That said I do think that the Chinese owe a considerably fuller explanation of what happened in Wuhan than we’ve had so far.

    But clearly there are arguments around deforestation and factory farming.

  • @John We have to try to stop more deadly mutations of this virus getting into the UK first – the Kent variant B.1.1.7. emerged experts say, because there was so much virus around it was more likely to mutate. The B.1.1.7. variant is more transmissible and even more of a threat to health. The Brazilian variant P.1. looks to be even more dangerous, including for young people. All our efforts to contain the virus and vaccinate the population will come to nothing if these new and emerging strains get a hold in the UK. Current vaccines appear to be less effective against the South African and Brazilian strains.

    On the environmental point I agree. We know that health and the environment are closely linked (e.g. air pollution and health). Destroying natural habitats only increases the impact of environmental events like flooding. Likewise if we don’t treat animals well there is always a comeback for humans.

  • James Fowler 18th Mar '21 - 10:43am

    I don’t doubt that people down under are happy to be free of COVID – at the moment. Likewise people in Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, Benin, Niger, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What I reject is the logical fallacy which confuses necessity and sufficiency when two or more countries are compared on the efficacy of a measure.

    I also challenge the angle taken in today’s Guardian concerning the deaths this winter you mention. I agree that it’s probably true. The problem is that it’s also truistic. ‘If only’ the government had introduced seatbelts earlier. ‘If only’ the government had banned smoking sooner. Hindsight is great thing. The issue is that it tends to edit out the difficulties: Children’s schooling? Isolation in care homes? Domestic abuse? Unemployment and immiseration?

    In echoes of the crime debate, your is retort that the ‘short, sharp, shock’ of a quick lockdown benefits society in long run. However, the list of countries where that was successfully achieved – without using quite horrifying methods of oppression – has grown significantly shorter over the year. Lockdown has been popular because it satisfies the need to be ‘doing something’ simple, drastic and immediately effective. Similar arguments are advanced for the death penalty, though whether it solves anything is another matter. My view is that the virus is better seen as a super-complex, long term problem, resistant to ‘quick fixes’.

    Finally, you mention the NHS. In the end, this has always been the crux of the matter. We have to control the virus to a degree – even by crude, damaging, oppressive methods – because our hospitals will simply collapse if we don’t. This is not something to celebrate or valorise, just a grim, temporary necessity. I think the staff on COVID wards have been outstanding, fully deserving of a tax free bonus of the sort that used to be given to soldiers after a six month tour of Afghanistan (£2500). I suspect that many staff will have seen things this year that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. The selfless care of the sick makes medicine a noble calling in whatever circumstances, but we’ve been reminded this year that for most of recorded history it’s also required real physical bravery.

  • Little Jackie Paper 18th Mar '21 - 11:25am

    James Fowler

    We have edited out everything because of furlough. Take that out and the complexion and mood changes markedly.

    That’s what I misjudged a year ago – I didn’t see how furlough would become an expectation. We’ve racked up half a trillion of debt for future generations just as we smash industries and it is outrageous.

  • @James I agree to some extent, but because we abandoned local authority testing and tracing early on, we lost control of the virus. Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy CMO said in March 2020 the WHO’s advice to “test, test, test” was intended for countries “less developed than Britain,” a really terrible error. If we had not had the lockdowns there might have been half a million deaths and our NHS would have been totally overwhelmed – it nearly was at times. NHS waiting lists for routine operations now also stand at 4.46million – some of those people are in a lot of pain.

    I definitely agree all NHS and care staff deserve a bonus. In Wales they are offering health and care workers a £500 bonus, a pretty small sum, but of course, nothing has been announced in England.

  • As a staunch European may I be permitted to ask how many of us would have been vaccinated if we had voted to stay in the E U?
    For people like myself this is a real dilemma.

  • One thing I have not seen Libdems talking about is the very peculiar Timetable for Re-opening – Gyms are opening before Museums for example. That seems to make no sense.

  • @Paul – Hadn’t spotted that but totally agree!

  • @Little Jackie Paper …That said I do think that the Chinese owe a considerably fuller explanation of what happened in Wuhan than we’ve had so far.
    Well yes, I do think the Chinese authorities know more than they allowed us to see. However, it hasn’t received the same media coverage, China has since Wuhan, had other CoViD outbreaks, so it would seem they aren’t as on top of it as they would wish us to believe.

    What is also interesting is the seeming ease with which Sars-Cov-2 seemingly jumped from humans to mink and back again – what is going on at mink farms in Denmark and the US? This brings us to a concern as to whether we now have a reserve of Sars-Cov-2 in our wildlife…

  • I don’t doubt that people down under are happy to be free of COVID – at the moment. James Fowler.

    I note how people point at how well Oz and NZ are doing in keeping Sars-Cov-2 out of their populations. Whilst I think we should be applauding them for having an effective lockdown – given at the time they started, there was little expectation of there being an effective vaccine before 2022, I wonder whether in the long-term these nations will achieve a rapid vaccination of a significate proportion (say >80%) of their population.

    Given the ‘success’ of the lockdown, I can see a situation where people don’t get vaccinated because they don’t see the imperative for them to be vaccinated – well “life is more or less back to normal” so lockdown worked… So given the current vaccine takeup in Oz and NZ (less than 1% of the population), it would not surprise me if they have problems in the coming years as they open up to the rest of the world…

    So whilst we can and should complain that the UK response was bumbling and late, it may actually ensure we get to 80~99% of the population being vaccinated before September. Whilst this may not give full protection to mutations, it does put the UK in a comparatively good place.

  • Considering most viruses seem to keep originating from bats, we should be putting pressure on foreign governments to make the consumption of bats illegal and not do any trade deals with any country that does, I would even go as far to say as apply sanctions to any country that does.

    That would be a start at least.

    I am also not sure how helpful it is for countries to be intentionally studying bats and genetically messing around with viruses before they have even jumped species and become a problem in the human population, why open Pandora’s box when the virus has probably been living in a cave for thousands of years and had left us alone thus far.

    I also do not trust some of these regimes to be looking at weaponizing these viruses
    which could target specific DNA of specific ethnicities.

  • … we abandoned local authority testing and tracing early on Judy Abel.
    This was a big mistake, in my area the local public health have shown their strength by rapidly identify hotspots – hence why the local figures are quite high – as they encourage entire businesses to have their workers tested when one or two get a positive test result. In one case that gained national press coverage national T&T found only circa 5 cases, but local public health linked these together and demonstrated these were the tip of an iceberg of cases in just one business, where most of the workers were asymptomatic…

  • @Roland

    “Given the ‘success’ of the lockdown, I can see a situation where people don’t get vaccinated because they don’t see the imperative for them to be vaccinated”

    I cannot see that being the case for Australia at all, polls have shown consistently that 76% would take the vaccine, 11% said No and 13% undecided.
    I suspect the uptake figures to increase as the roll out begins ( Just as in the UK) and as they see the success of other countries vaccine rollouts, this will push figures up further.

    Many Australians have links to family overseas and many younger Australians love to travel in winter to Bali or Fiji, so again, I can see uptake of vaccines being quite high.

    In fact 73% of Australians believe vaccine should be compulsory if the vaccine had proven safe, effective and available in Australia

  • @ Matt. You are right. The BBC reported in February that “coronaviruses related to Sars-CoV-2 may be circulating in bats across many parts of Asia.” I think the scientists still don’t know how the virus passed from animals to humans though. I hope the WHO are working on it, but in the mean time rational action is needed to prevent animal to human transmission.

  • Thanks for all your comments. At least we end the day with the AZ jab cleared for use again in Europe and Covid cases and hospital admissions still falling.

  • Peter Martin 18th Mar '21 - 10:58pm

    @ Little Jackie Paper,

    “We’ve racked up half a trillion of debt for future generations just as we smash industries and it is outrageous.”

    No. We haven’t.

    The standard of living of future generations will be entirely determined by the goods and services they produce at the time. Their quality of life will be affected also by the state of the environment.

    The worst we’ve done is create an inflation risk for the next few years. IF it happens we’ll need to deal with it ourselves.

  • A Public Health England study shows that Greece was the largest source of imported Covid infections between June and September last year, accounting for 21% of new cases, compared with 16% for Croatia and 14% for Spain,

    Further proof that ALL International travel needs to have been banned during a pandemic.

    Had we have done so from the outset, we would not have experienced anything like the numbers that we had.
    We would not have required as longer lockdowns that we did, and would have been able to enjoy “domestic tourism” more and not done anywhere near as much damage to the economy.
    Surely even the most ardent anti-lockdowners would have preferred this.

    Lessons, should and must be learnt and that’s why an Inquiry needs to start sooner rather than later. We have no idea when the next one is going to hit, its a matter of when not if and we must be better prepared

  • @ Matt I agree – and remember right at the start of the pandemic, Covid-19 appeared to enter the UK from a few people on a skiing holiday in Italy. it spread like wildfire. I am worried that the South African and Brazilian variants may get a foothold here as the current vaccines appear less effective against them.

    We aren’t hearing much about the quarantine hotels either – are people still quarantining for 2 weeks on arrival from the red zone countries?

  • Laurence Cox 19th Mar '21 - 1:00pm

    @Judy Abel

    There is a good article by a Junior Hospital Doctor here: which really illustrates the mistakes our NHS made during the early phase of the epidemic, despite us having the example of Northern Italy to learn from.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Mar '21 - 1:36pm


    a fine article, that is needed. I wrote a good deal on this early on. I wrote on this site and elsewhere. I wrote articles. I got involved in discussion. I found then and do now, that few are as concerned as I am. We are being encouraged to not be other than compliant with govt. We ought to comply. But i am of the view we should have got through this so much better, with a try at a zero or near that, covid policy. It is unless we are myopic, correct to look at New zealand, australia, and see what could be done.

    I wrote about flights, borders, nearly a year ago, again months ago, so few were interested. i even had a piece turned down here, too staunch for the site.

    I gave up here. The debate, the obsession with other subjects, demoralised me. The labour approach, “lets get the vaccine,” worse. No questions about Astra Zenca are given credence. No preference for Pfizer allowed. Suddenly to be concerned or worried, is to be “anti vax!”

    I despair. I admire Matt here but few on this until your piece,thanks Judy.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Mar '21 - 1:39pm


    The link Laurence reveals to the piece from the doctor, here above, is a revealing of how to glorify anything, including the very flawed NHS, is wrong. There are heroic individuals. There is no heroic organisation. That is a Liberal approach!

  • @Lorenzo

    Thank you for the mention, I sometimes worried that I was flogging a dead horse with my opinions on here, mind you that will never silence me as I am often told I like the sound of my own voice 😉

    But to me, to my very core of who I am and what I believe first and foremost is equality all lives matter and are equally important no matter age or health or what one contributes towards society, that’s what makes me a Libdem 🙂

    These beliefs burn even brighter in me in times of National Emergency as we have seen with Covid which disproportionately targeted the elderly and disabled, it is times like this were my identity as a Liberal reinforces the values that everyone should pull together as one rather than looking through the prism of our own mortality and liberties.

    I really hope our Liberal Democrat MP’s put pressure on the Government to get us this inquiry now and not allow the Tories to drag this out over years just trying to decide who should sit on the panel as with what happened in the child abuse inquiry.

    Time is not on our side

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Mar '21 - 3:15pm


    You reveal why Brexit was so worryingly dividing our country, but not out here in one voice Lib Dem land, that a moderate pro Brexit stance like yours was so lacking representatives, was a travesty!

    As so many think to be Liberal is to believe in Europeanism as if it were an ideology, similarly, they do, with libertarianism.

    Neither is so. We, those of us who see this as we do, are worried. Please read this piece I had rejected ,

  • @Lorenzo

    “You reveal why Brexit was so worryingly dividing our country”

    I was actually going to mention this in my post but shied away, but yes, I particularly did not like the arguments that some people made about “old” people as there views were not worth as much as a young persons as they would not have to live with the results as long. That struck me as extremely illiberal for all the reasons I set out before.

    I have just read your piece that you had rejected and am very disappointed that it did not get published, I think it would have been valuable to discuss on here

  • @Laurence – thank you for that suggestion, I’ll have a read of that.
    @Lorenzo – ah thanks for that great encouragement! I have been on Twitter all year questioning various elements of the Government’s strategy, particularly Eat Out to Help Out and not locking down sooner in the Autumn when SAGE was begging the Government to do so, all leading to the big upsurge in cases. Allowing foreign holidays abroad last summer and not closing our borders for a whole year also had a massive impact.

    When I wrote my piece for LDV last March (published on 21 March 2020), which I quoted at the start of the above article, I was asked to tone it down a bit as at that point, it was felt we should really be supporting the Government during the pandemic. I do understand that, but could honestly see things were going so badly wrong, even at the start, that I wanted to express my real concerns.

    @Matt I agree, a life lost is a life lost however old someone is – it is a loss to their family and they are gone forever. This makes me incredibly sad. To see that more than 850 health and care professionals have died, and bus and train crew, is also incredibly sad. 140,000 lives lost is a huge death toll and yet there has been no formal recognition of this or commemoration.

    I do think leaving the EU was a mistake though – leading to the nationalistic policies we are seeing now – and far too much posturing with flags by British politicians!

  • @Laurence Cox

    Thank you for linking to that article

    It reminds me of the situation of my sister who works in a care home.

    Her home was pretty hard hit during the 2nd wave with staff and residents going down left right and centre, My sister started displaying symptoms, fatigue etc, but she kept throwing up negatives on the daily rapid flow tests, she was convinced she had covid, but bosses insisted that she continued on working as the tests were negative and said she just probably just had flu, which to this day still amazes me because I would have thought being a healthcare worker in a care home, even if it was “just flu” you should not be able to work considering the risks this poses to vulnerable residents.

    She phoned me up in tears one day, telling me she was exhausted, she just had a right bashing from her boss who was demanding a double shift from her due to staff shortages (covid) She ended up refusing and said she thought she should have the swab test done and sent off for anyalis, but the boss refused and said No, as they only do them weekly.
    I convinced her to book her own test online ( which she did) and sure enough it came back positive.
    She had been working 5 days like this.

    Tragically, over the 2nd wave after Christmas, her care home lost over 40 Residents.

    It seems to me that “some” care homes also did not learn the lessons from the first wave.

    We need a wide ranging enquiry from the Governments preparedness for a pandemic
    Its Response to the pandemic and procurement
    The Failures of the NHS in early days as emphasized by the junior dr in your link
    Failures within the Care Home Sector
    Our lacking ICU bed ratio per population
    We need to be looking at what the UK should be doing in terms of investment to expand our vaccine producing capacities even further and encouraging as many pharmaceuticals to set up facilities in the UK by the means of Tax Breaks / Incentives
    We need to ensure we are capable of producing enough glass vials domestically (even if this does mean paying more) the same goes for PPE

    But also with utmost urgency, I think we need to be doing something YESTERDAY in relation to the dangers we now face with a future severe shortage of NHS staff, many of whom facing a mental health crisis and many considering early retirement and a change of career. I think we should be looking at fully subsiding tuition fees for medical students, in return for say a 10 year contract.

  • @Matt – that story about your sister being told to work when she had all the symptoms of Covid explains a lot about how the virus spread in care homes. It amazes me how little sense her bosses had. I hope your sister is fully recovered. It’s awful to hear so many residents died in the home during the second wave.

    Also your list of suggested priorities for action is similar to that I outlined in my article – what needs to be done is clear. Unfortunately without greater investment in more staff and ICU beds we could be ill prepared if hit by another pandemic. Existing staff are exhausted too.

  • Barry Lofty 20th Mar '21 - 9:34am

    Judy Abel: Thanks for your article it restores my faith in the knowledge that I am not alone!! A proper inquiry is needed into all that has happened over the past year but I suspect this government will delay it for as long as possible to negate it’s impact .

  • @Thanks very much for the positive feedback Barry! The APPG for Coronavirus, chaired by Layla Moran MP with two other Lib Dem MPs as Officers, has been taking a lot of evidence: It’s already clear that Covid-19 was able to exploit serious, pre-existing, weaknesses in our NHS and care system, compounded by poor decision-making at critical points during the pandemic – although to be fair the vaccine procurement and rollout has been excellent.

  • The third wave now hitting Europe is pretty alarming to say the least, especially since some of those countries seem to have more cases of the SA and Brazilian Variant than what we had.

    It would be a huge mistake to open up foreign travel again, the current road map suggests the 17th May as the earliest.

    Nowhere near enough people would have received their vaccines by that date in the UK and lets not forget that under 18’s are not getting the jab at all and although the virus is not as dangerous to young people, they are still capable of spreading of the virus.
    As I pointed out in an early post “A Public Health England study shows that Greece was the largest source of imported Covid infections between June and September last year, accounting for 21% of new cases, compared with 16% for Croatia and 14% for Spain”

    We do not want to go backwards,
    we should be looking at protecting domestic tourism and allowing our citizens and residents to enjoy some well earned freedoms this Spring / Summer.
    They cannot face another lockdown and that means we should not be opening up international travel whilst infection rates are so high across the continent and further afield.

  • @Matt Totally agree – foreign travel could really take us backwards (let’s learn from last year), especially as we need everyone to have had two jabs for maximum protection.

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