The Covid-19 crisis management of European countries reveals their structural weaknesses and strengths. It unveils not only the degree of robustness of their health system, but also the effectiveness of their digital system, the resilience of their emergency management system, the level of public trust in the governments... By comparing large scale government responses to a single disaster and the outcomes of these responses, we are able to highlight their core assets and compare their cruising pace in some fundamental public policy strategies.
As the second lockdown in the UK is being extended, Anuchika Stanislaus, International Affairs Officer at Institut Montaigne, interviewed Eva Thorne, Director of University Partnerships of the Tony Blair Institute, in order to understand the UK’s level of performance in mitigating the crisis, especially through the UK’s advanced research on vaccines.
What conclusions can be drawn from the UK’s past management of the pandemic and how do they guide the British government's current choices?
Experts predicted there would be a large pool of infections that would contribute to a second wave or a spike as we entered the flu season. It's utterly depressing to see that everything they said was correct, especially as there was no reason to think that they wouldn't be, because they were using models, statistics, data, and past experience. We are now in the next phase of this pandemic, which is happening during the flu season, and it’s all the more important to get a flu vaccine now.
In the United States, cases are out of control. Last week, the country had more than 1,000 deaths per day for several days straight. Similarly in the UK, the infection rate was also rising for a while. Hopefully this lockdown will help slow the spread of the disease. Hopefully the UK government will use this period to put measures in place, so that we do not have to go into another lockdown. On a positive note, we’ve learned a lot since the spring and health care professionals are better equipped to treat people, which reduces the death rate. Also, we now have dexamethasone to treat people. We also have patients who can participate in the UK's RECOVERY treatment trial, with some access to some of the drugs which are being tested, particularly antibodies which we know are powerful.
That all being said, we know from experience with various governments that it’s more difficult to get the virus under control in the absence of coordinated national and local strategies. Until a vaccine is distributed, we have to focus on what we can do now. In September, the head of the Center for Disease Control in the United States was giving congressional testimony before we had any news about Pfizer. He held up a mask and said "Until we get a vaccine, this mask is our best protection". Yet, we see a reluctance to push masks mandates in many places. Mass testing, contact tracing and isolation, social distancing, being outdoors, and frequent hand-washing are also part of what works and what people need to do to manage until we have mass vaccination. This virus knows no boundary nor borders, and piecemeal approaches just aren’t good enough.