The lockdown, better late than never, gives hope to the South West. Now we need testing and tracking. But a public inquiry into the Government’s mistakes must come later.

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italy ward

The lockdown announced by Boris Johnson yesterday is the right policy. Respecting it will save lives.

In the South West, where it seems we still have relatively few cases – although no one really knows because the Government abandoned most testing – this policy gives the best chance of containing the epidemic to a level which will be manageable with the limited number of Intensive Care Unit beds, ventilators and nursing staff in the region’s NHS.

As the lockdown slows the spread of the disease, it should be used for widespread testing and tracking down cases, to eradicate it before lifting restrictions.

The Government’s catastrophic mistakes

A lockdown should have been done 3 weeks ago. Doing it even two weeks or a week ago would have made a big difference, as I and colleagues argued at the time.

Instead we now know that Johnson, with his advisor Dominic Cummings, initially went for a policy summed up by one leading Tory as ‘herd immunity and let the old people die’. They were prepared to allow 100,000 excess deaths. But then research showed that their policies would actually lead to 250,000-500,000 deaths, and they realised that the NHS would be destroyed.

Now, a study suggests that 35,000-70,000 deaths will still result. This is ‘only’ 10-20 times the number in China. We had the benefit of their experience, and also observing the terrible situation in Italy. But our leaders learnt too little, too late, after pursuing a terrible fantasy. Many will pay the price.

In due course, there will need to be a public inquiry. Johnson, Cummings and others responsible must be brought account for the unnecessary deaths. For now, however, we must give all our support to the NHS staff who are battling to save lives, and live with the lockdown, for all our sakes.

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