As more and more other countries go into lockdown or opt for mass school closures, there is going to be political controversy over the British government’s approach to coronavirus.
The political consensus on the handling of the virus is already beginning to fray. But it is worth trying to understand why the UK isn’t doing what so many other countries are doing. I write in the Sun this morning that the government isn’t behaving in this manner because it doesn’t think the virus can be stopped. One of those at the heart of the government’s efforts says, ‘A lot of the international response is, how do we stop coronavirus? But that cannot happen: It is a global pandemic. What we are saying is, we can’t stop it; but we can mitigate it and save as many people as possible.’
The risk countries that have imposed draconian controls are running is that as soon as they ease back on these measures the virus will flare right back up. The UK strategy is designed to spread out the caseload and ensure that coronavirus doesn’t return this winter, when the National Health Service would be least able to cope.
In government, they are acutely aware of the risk that they are taking. They know that voters will compare how many people die in Britain with how many people die in other countries and, in the words of one senior source, ‘we will be judged accordingly’.
Even if the government’s strategy is vindicated in the end, there could be several months this summer when it looks like the approach taken in other countries has led to a lower death rate.
But what is telling is the UK government’s decision to take the more politically difficult path. It shows that they really do believe that this approach is the best way to limit the devastation caused by the virus.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.