Many politicians and commentators have claimed that if the Government alone had pursued science last year and closed a week earlier and closed our borders as other countries did, we could have saved tens of thousands of lives.
And of course this is what we would all very much like many people have suffered and lost their lives something I saw first hand on the front line.
But as an epidemiologist, I have also tried to figure out which interventions were most effective and whether a previous blockade would have reduced our number of eventual deaths over both waves. To do this, I have not relied on the models on which these claims are made, but I have looked at what actually happened in Europe.
Cross-country comparisons have their limitations, but those in Europe are closer to the UK in terms of their population, age structures, climate / seasons and healthcare systems, and these are key factors in determining the number of deaths. by Covid- 19
It is true that two countries Norway and Finland which closed a week before the UK (and closed their borders) have been extremely successful in achieving small first and second waves and without excessive mortality to date .
But those exceptions that happened in many other countries in Europe who also blocked (and closed their borders) at the same time is that they had very small first waves in the Spring of 2020 but this was followed by waves of second much larger in fall / winter 2021 (and now in spring 2021, too).
And this has happened despite second and third blockades in many of these countries as people understandably struggled to maintain compliance with the restrictions for months. (Compliance rates also closely follow virus fears / high mortality rates, and so are lower when fears / deaths are lower, and so early blockages are not as effective as we saw here in November.)
Such an outcome was predictable, and predictable. Blockages in the absence of vaccines can only push not prevent infections, hospital admissions and deaths.
And effectively delaying part of the first wave from spring to the second wave in winter, this meant that many countries had a higher percentage of the population still susceptible to infection, and thus led to even higher figures high deaths as health systems struggled to cope
And that would have been even worse in the UK with one of the lowest numbers of hospital beds and ICU per head in Europe that would have led to even higher surplus deaths from both Covid-19 and causes other as capacity was overloaded.
Of course, just looking at mortality Covid-19 does not give the full picture as different circuits encode deaths in different ways and so we need to look at excess mortality, which is the best comparative measure. However, this will have to wait until the end of the second / third wave in the summer.
But based on current trends, it seems that many of these countries that we thought were doing well because of their early blockages and small first waves will end up with higher mortality than the UK, including the Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal and many others.
In closing the borders, which in retrospect has shown a major intervention, it should also be remembered that it was SAGE who advised against this a year ago, as did the WHO.
And even if the SAGEs’ advice had been ignored on Mars, and we had closed the borders, it was too late: the virus was well established in the UK with thousands of people having bought infections from the February crescent holidays in Europe.
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