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Difficult decisions on Coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus is a nightmare for any government, and the UK Health Secretary has difficult choices to make.  The worst-case scenario is worrying.  The government should be preparing for the worst.  To date, the UK is in a containment phase of the crisis.  Other countries have already moved to measures to prevent the virus from spreading.  Managing the spread of the virus means drastic social and political action as evidenced in Italy.

One wonders why the government is waiting.  There is no reason to suppose that the virus is not spreading in the UK just as it is in France, even if it has not reached the levels seen in Italy.



Stopping the spread would mean taking strong measures that would impact adversely on the economy.  The government will also be mindful of the risks of panic in the population.

Many experts are warning that the UK has only a few days if it is to take action that would prevent the virus spreading as it has done in Italy, where much of the country is now in shutdown.  This might be regarded as unduly alarmist by some.

While it might seem churlish to criticise the government for their response to the virus, it is nonetheless right that they should be vigorously questioned.   Turning the coronavirus into a political football isn't going to be helpful.  But the public would be correct in suspecting that they are in no small extent being kept in the dark about the potential risks.

The government rightly say they will follow the science.  But that science will be telling them that the threat from this virus is severe.  Science cannot make a political decision.   And yet whether the outbreak is considered a pandemic is, to a large extent just that -  a political decision.

Some news organisations, such as CNN are already calling coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.  They are doing so because that is what science is informing them.  Waiting for the WHO to catch up with that would be foolish.   The WHO is behind events not ahead of them.

Whether we are dealing with an outbreak, an epidemic or a pandemic is to a large extent a matter of scale.  But it also reflects the degree to which the spread is or is not under control.

Currently, the WHO classifies the risks of spread as 'high'.   The WHO is hopeful that with aggressive steps now, the spread can be constrained.  How aggressive should governments be? That is a judgement, not an absolute measure made in a scientific laboratory.  Many epidemiologists are already calling it a pandemic. 

Our government should act on what science is telling them - and much of that science will be telling them to act now.   It is better to take appropriate measures early enough to contain the spread and save lives than it is to wait until many lives are lost.

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