Middle To late March
The Care Home Fiasco Is Triggered
On 7 March hospitals were given clear guidance from NHS England to ‘urgently’ free 15,000 beds by discharging anybody medically fit to leave which included elderly patients being discharged to care homes. On 5 May data provided by Public Health England revealed that the virus had established itself in more than 4,500 care homes whilst figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that 5,890 care home residents died in the week ending 24 April, an increase of 2,500 compared to the week before.
Herd Immunity Again
On the 13 March the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told Sky News that about 60% of people would need to become infected with coronavirus in order for the UK to enjoy “herd immunity”. The ‘herd immunity policy’ is discussed by Vallance here https://youtu.be/CeaAgP_Mggw : the full interview can be seen here https://youtu.be/2XRc389TvG8. The day after this interview, on 14 March, The Stereophonics played to an audience of 5,000 people in Cardiff.
A team led by Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London researched simulations of the coronavirus outbreak which showed that a ‘herd immunity’ strategy could lead to high rates of hospitalisation and the need for critical care which would probably overwhelm the NHS. The Government changed course!
On 15 March all routine dental care in England was suspended.
When things started to look very serious with the virus spreading much more quickly than the Government had anticipated, on 16 March Boris Johnson requested that people should not to go to bars though he allowed them to stay open. He also requested everyone “to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel”. The most vulnerable, especially those over 70, were told to prepare to stay home for up to 12 weeks. The measures were soon to escalate with the economy effectively shut down and all but the most essential activities prohibited.
Operation Last Gasp
On 17 March Johnson gave us an insight into his insensitive stupidity when, during a conference call to appeal for the manufacture of ventilators with over 60 business leaders, he joked that the venture should be called “Operation Last Gasp”.
On 20 March schools across the UK were closed indefinitely and A-level and GCSE exams cancelled. This was the first total shutdown of UK schools in modern history putting 8 million pupils in England into isolation.
On 20 March the UK Government announced a series of wide-ranging measures to assist businesses and employees through the COVID-19 crisis including the furlough scheme, whereby workers are paid up to 80% of their pay (terms and conditions apply).
On 20 March Dr Jenny Harries The deputy chief medical officer said that the problems around protective equipment had been ’completely resolved’, and that hospitals and care workers would receive adequate supplies.
On 31 March it was reported that doctors had been gagged over PPE shortages. However a month later on 21 April the British Medical Journal reported, “As hospitals run out of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare staff fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, doctors report that trusts and NHS England are clamping down on their attempts to go public about the situation in mainstream news outlets or on social media.”
Finally, after weeks of prevarication from a Government in denial about the severity of Covid-19, the country was instructed to go into lockdown on 23 March. We were instructed to leave home only once a day for exercise, essential shopping, medical needs or for key worker duties. Gatherings of all kinds were banned and police were given the power to impose fines on anyone breaking the rules.
“Brexit over Breathing”
On 26 March Boris Johnson is accused of putting “Brexit over Breathing” after failing to join the EU ventilator scheme to source life-saving ventilators. After Downing Street initially asserted that the UK did not take part because the UK was “no longer a member” and was “making our own efforts”, the excuses were changed to a claim that the failure to take part was because they accidentally missed the deadline after missing an email.
Also on 26 March Boris Johnson is tested positive for Covid-19 though is reported to be experiencing only mild symptoms.