The Imperial MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis have released their latest report (41) into the epidemiological drivers and impact of interventions in England in the first and second waves.
Dr Julian Tang, Honorary Associate Professor/Clinical Virologist, University of Leicester, said:
“This report is a timely reminder, as 2020 comes to an end, of how things could have been done better in the UK for the management of this COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Lancet editor, Richard Horton’s earlier editorial describing the UK’s delayed response to the pandemic as a ‘national scandal’ has now been vindicated to some extent: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30727-3/fulltext
“Earlier models and analyses from the USA on their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how earlier action on social distancing and universal masking could have saved 36,000-40,000 lives:
“And now this UK MRC study has shown something similar – that earlier interventions could have saved tens of thousands of lives: “Introducing national lockdown one week earlier would have reduced the first wave death toll from 36,700 to 15,700 (95% CrI 8,900-26,800)“.
“This makes complete sense to those who are familiar with dealing with a rapidly spreading, evolving pathogen, like the Southeast Asian countries who have experienced SARS 2003, avian influenza A(H5N1), A(H7N9).
“So it has been a steep and painful learning curve for many Western countries, whose COVID-19 case numbers and deaths are the highest globally, where healthcare systems have been optimised over many decades to deal with more chronic, non-infectious illnesses, like diabetes, chronic heart, lung, liver, kidney disease, dementia and Parkinson’s disease, etc.
“This is not necessarily a criticism, but more of a lesson learned, and it has been a humbling and difficult experience for these countries, e.g. no, there wasn’t sufficient PPE stockpiled; masks can and do work; the virus is airborne and hand-washing alone will not control it; asymptomatics do transmit and require testing; children can and do become infected and can transmit the virus, etc.
“Hopefully, the lessons learned during 2020 with COVID-19 will optimise the responses for the next pandemic (and there will almost certainly be another) – with more decisive, early action and less ‘world-beating/world-leading’ rhetoric – to curb the infection at an earlier stage to reduce the overall numbers of cases and deaths.”
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