September 25, 2020

Coronavirus: Testing, PPE and ventilators – how has the government done?

In the UK government’s original plan the steps to slow the spread of coronavirus were to be introduced relatively slowly.

On 10 March the government said people showing flu-like symptoms should expect to be asked to self-isolate for seven days. But the chief medical adviser said that change in advice would only come 10 to 14 days down the line.

As we know now, within 10 days, the government’s whole strategy had been overhauled.

The final stages of a lockdown – the closure of non-essential shops and police powers to restrict people’s movements – were only announced on 23 March, after more than 300 people had already died in the UK.

This delay – some have argued – lost the UK valuable time. China and then Italy had already seen outbreaks, so had the UK learned the lessons it should have?

Even now – two months on from its first case – the UK is still playing catch up in terms of testing, protective equipment and ventilators.

Germany – which now tests three times as many people as the UK each day per head of population – developed a diagnostic test (to see if someone currently has the virus) a month before the UK did.

But it had some major advantages – more labs and a bigger manufacturing industry for starters. It has been less susceptible to the shortages of testing kits and chemicals which have affected the ability of not just the UK, but also countries such as Italy and France.

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