Government announces tough emergency powers, but still holds off on European-style lockdown
|With lockdown measures continuing to spread across the globe – France, Los Angeles and New York City have become the latest to close restaurants, bars and other venues, while Spain is now under an Italian-style national quarantine – the British government is trying to regain control of the narrative. |
– Backtracking, but only so much –
Ministers came under increasing criticism from Friday over the Government’s much less stringent approach to the Covid-19 pandemic. There was particular ire from some experts at the idea of “herd immunity”, with critics pointing out that we do not yet know if post-virus immunity actually lasts long term. It doesn’t for the common cold, another coronavirus.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, backtracked from the herd immunity idea at the weekend, saying that it was a by-product and not an aim of the Government’s strategy, and Downing Street is now bowing to the pressure and attempting to be seen to do more.
From today, there will be daily televised briefings involving either the Prime Minister or a senior minister. A ban on mass gatherings will be discussed at this morning’s Cobra meeting. No10 and the Government’s scientific advisers reportedly aren’t convinced that it will do much to contain the virus, but it isn’t seen as counterproductive and so is likely to go ahead.
Hancock has also bowed to pressure to make public the mathematical modelling that the Government is using to make its plans.
Details of emergency powers have also been made public, with police able to detain and/or fine those who refuse to be tested, quarantined or give details of their contacts. Those powers will last for two years.
– The price of failure –
Even then, the UK’s efforts remain fairly gentle to those abroad and the criticism continues to mount. The key issue is why Britain isn’t reacting in the way South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan have by testing as many people as possible and taking strict quarantine measures.
The main reasons appear to be that one, significant community transmission is already underway in the UK, and two, the Government’s advisers expect that those countries will see a significant rebound in cases as soon as they slacken their efforts.
Yet, there were significant warnings at the weekend that the NHS simply isn’t prepared to cope with widespread infection. Sarah Knapton, our Science Editor, has the details, but there are concerns over everything from the number of beds and oxygen supply to testing medical staff for the virus.
Meanwhile, The Guardian has seen a Public Health England document that says that the infection rate is expected to reach 80 per cent – a number previously described as an unlikely worst-case scenario – and that 7.9 million people would be hospitalised during the pandemic. The document also expects the virus to be around for over a year, although the majority of cases would still take place in the space of a few weeks.
– Nations of the world, unite? –
Internationally, there are signs that, after weeks of every-nation-for-itself reactions, global coordination might finally begin. Today, there will be a video conference between the leaders of the G7, including Britain, the US and the EU.
It follows coordinated action between the US Federal Reserve and central banks in the UK, Japan, the Eurozone, Canada, and Switzerland to ensure the supply of dollars for financial institutions. The Fed also cut interest rates to almost zero per cent and announced a massive $700 billion dollar stimulus involving a return to quantitative easing.
While health services are in the unknown, the financial system at least has recent institutional memory of global crisis and is making use of it. There’s little that governments can do to boost demand so long as households are in lockdown, but the Fed’s efforts are aimed at ensuring the cash flow of business doesn’t dry up in the meantime.
Robin Pagnamenta writes here on what more could be done by governments and central banks, and the challenges they face in coordinating a response.
The way in which the British Government has been buffeted over the weekend is a reminder of two key things. First of all, this is entirely uncharted territory for the world and any and all decisions entail risk of some sort, it’s just very, very hard to tell how much. And second, however smart or nuanced your approach, it’ll eventually have to be justified in the face of many deaths.
By Daniel Capurro,
TAP. How the hell do you know you ignorant journalist? Many deaths? China is already stating new daily infections are in single figures. We have 300,000 plus viruses in our bodies at any given time. Coronavirus will be in everyone eventually, but it won’t be making anyone ill if we have immunity as it appears we will soon, if we don’t already possess it. The tests that prove the presence of the virus (if done correctly which itself is unlikely) prove only that one virus is present. You need millions and for the numbers to be increasing unchecked. There is no test for that last part. So all the tests are useless.
This is pneumonia and the science is bunkum. The only reason the world government is trying to shut down the economy is to prove who’s boss and to crash markets so insiders can seize control of businesses while they’re on the floor. Wise up, Telegraph. I was wondering whether to subscribe but as you’re clearly so very dumb, I will not be doing so.
The virus isn’t going to kill many people it seems from the Chinese situation, not any more than any other form of pneumonia. Maybe the vaccines will do the killing which the virus won’t. Is that what the journalists know? Or 5G? Or chemtrails? There won’t be many deaths unless there is some other weapon deployed, or the food supply is cut off.
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