On 11 February, the WHO announced that the disease caused by new coronavirus would be called ‘COVID-19’. The new coronavirus itself was dubbed SARS-CoV-2.
On 14 February, instead of taking charge of leading the fight against the pandemic, Boris Johnson went on holiday. He already had a reputation for a lazy approach to detail; it is therefore no surprise to learn of the rumour that his aides were advised to keep his briefing notes ‘brief’ as his would make it more likely that he would actually read them. For the two weeks of the period between 24 January and 2 March, when thousands of people had already died of coronavirus around the world and Storm Dennis was causing flooding across England, instead of chairing the crucial Cobra meetings, Johnson and fiancée Carrie Simmons took a half term holiday in Chevening (pictured below), a large country house in Kent. Read about Johnson’s history of going on holiday when crisis hits.
It was widely reported that on 28 February Johnson’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings promoted the idea of ‘herd immunity’ which would allow the virus to spread unchecked. Cummings allegedly argued that we need to, ‘protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad’. Johnson’s’s Office has denied that Cummings made such comments.
However, despite Johnson warning the country that, as a result of Covid-19, “families are going to lose loved ones before their time”, the Government took very little immediate action to halt the spread of the virus. It wasn’t until much later on 16 March that his approach became far more urgent and he began advising on the measures necessary to stop the spread. Therefore it can be reasonably concluded that the Government was either hugely incompetent in being too slow to take effective action to slow the spread of the virus, or they were adopting a ‘herd immunity approach’ as speculated in the New Statesman. You decide!
Johnson finally attended his first Cobra meeting on 2 March and though Government’s scientific advisors warned that over half a million UK residents could die if the virus wasn’t contained, Johnson proclaims to the nation, “We are very, very well prepared”.