Monday, January 18, 2021

UK travel quarantine rules too little too late

From today all so-called travel corridors to the UK have been closed with everyone now arriving in the UK required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test as well as self-isolate for 10 days [BBC].

The new rules have been introduced following increased concerns over new strains of the COVID-19 coronavirus considered more contagious. However, such rules were implemented by some countries nearly one year ago as the virus was first identified. Those that acted quickly have kept cases and deaths low and also kept their economies running.

But the failure of Britain, the US and some European countries, to close borders and impose strict quarantine rules has resulted in huge numbers of cases, a high death toll and massive damage to their economies.

First reports

In late December 2019 and early January 2020 reports emerged of a new respiratory virus [SCMP]. Dubbed 2019-nCov, later COVID-19 and SARS-CoV2, by mid-January several countries had reacted swiftly to stop the spread, locking down borders, imposing strict rules on the use of masks and imposing strict quarantine procedures on anyone arriving.

Those countries that acted in January 2020 have been least affected by COVID-19. From small island nations to large continents, swift action has been shown to be effective.

Rising deaths

On Friday 13th January this year the UK recorded another 1,564 COVID-19 deaths bringing the total number of people who have died to 84,767.

Discounting certain countries such as Brazil, Russia and India - where figures are contentious or disputable - Britain's death toll is the highest in the world in percentage terms.

Statistical comparisons

In Japan last weekend authorities were concerned about a rise in coronavirus cases. Tokyo had seen 1,494 new cases of COVID-19, and countrywide the level of cases peaked at 7,790. This prompted further action such as forcing employees to reduce worker levels by 70% at places of work. In itself such cases are concerning. But in a country of 126.5 million Japan has done exceedingly well in controlling the virus with a sum total of 289,000 cases and 3,850 deaths. This equates to 0.003% of its population having died from COVID-19.

On 8th January the UK [population 66.6 million] saw its highest peak of 68,053 cases recorded. The sum total in the UK thus far is 3.07 million cases and over 80,000 deaths. This equates to 0.12% of its population having died from COVID-19.

With a population of 328.2 million and a total of 374,000 deaths in the US, this equates to 0.114% of its population having died from COVID-19, slightly smaller than the death toll in the UK.

But it's when one looks at those who acted quickly at a spreading pandemic that Britain's failure in controlling the virus becomes stark.

On 8th January this year New Zealand [population 4.8 million] saw 0 cases [its highest peak of 89 cases was recorded on the 5th April 2020]. The sum total in New Zealand thus far is 2,222 cases and a total of only 25 deaths. This equates to 0.0005% of its population having died from COVID-19.    

On the same day South Korea [population 51.64 million] saw 641 cases [its highest peak of 1,237 cases was recorded on the 24th December 2020]. The sum total in South Korea thus far is 69,114 cases and a total of 1,140 deaths. This equates to 0.002% of its population having died from COVID-19.      

But it's Taiwan [population 23.78 million] that has perhaps done the best in controlling the spread. On the 8th January it did see a further 3 cases [its highest peak of 27 cases was recorded on the 20th March 2020] bringing the sum total of cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 828 cases. But only 7 deaths have been recorded equating to 0.000029% of its population having died from COVID-19. Much of this has been achieved by testing and strict quarantining of every arrival since January 2020 along with a robust and strictly enforced test and trace system.    

Meanwhile Australia [population 24.99 million] saw 24 cases on the 8th of January [its highest peak of 721 cases was recorded on the 30th July 2020]. The sum total in Australia thus far is 28,614 cases and a total of 909 deaths, equating to 0.004% of its population having died from COVID-19.  

Reportage and messaging

The media in Britain has failed to highlight how badly the UK has done in comparison to others, or hold the Boris Johnson government to account for its abject failure to stop thousands from dying whilst destroying the economy with repeated lockdowns.

On the 23rd January 2020 the health secretary told UK lawmakers that, "The public can be assured that the whole of the UK is always well-prepared for these types of outbreaks and will remain vigilant and keep our response under constant review in the light of emerging scientific evidence."

Instead of closing borders, Matt Hancock merely said advice would be offered to those travelling from China should they fall ill. And during the statement to the UK parliament claimed the risk to the UK population from the virus had been revised by the chief medical officer from "very low to low" []Parliament TV].

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and no doubt the excuses given by the government would be they didn't know the seriousness of the threat. But it is evident from how well other countries have done that Britain's handling of the pandemic is nothing short of being an absolute failure.

tvnewswatch, London, UK