A grim milestone

A grim milestone

The UK became the first country in Europe – and only the fifth in the world, after the US, Brazil, India and Mexico – to pass the milestone of 100,000 recorded coronavirus deaths. “It’s hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic,” said the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. He was, he added, “deeply sorry for every life that has been lost” but insisted: “We did everything we could.” Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, said that Britain had now reached the peak of the second Covid wave, but warned that the tally of daily deaths would remain high for some weeks yet.

On Wednesday, the Government announced a limited hotel quarantine system for people flying into the country from Covid hotspots. Some ministers had called for the quarantining of all arrivals, but for now the measure will only apply to British travellers returning from 30 high-risk countries, including Brazil, South Africa and Portugal. Non-UK residents from those countries are already barred from entering Britain. Travellers will have to quarantine in hotels near airports, at their own expense and under the supervision of security guards, for ten days.

Covid has taken a toll on every nation, said The Times, but Britain stands out. In the week from 10 to 17 January, we recorded an average of 935 Covid deaths per day, giving us the world’s highest per capita death rate. The social impact of this crisis may yet compare to that of “the influenza pandemic that killed an estimated 228,000 people in Britain in 1918”. When this is over, there will need to be a thorough accounting of the Government’s “botched” response.

Although hindsight always makes it easy to see where things could have been done better, Britain’s handling of Covid does compare poorly to other nations’, said The Daily Telegraph. On vaccines, though, we have a good record – and that is where hope now lies. The PM has promised a national commemoration for the Covid dead. “But a more lasting memorial would be to ensure that the vaccine programme does not stall”, and is a springboard that returns us to normality as swiftly as possible. All in good time, said The Guardian. Tory MPs are demanding to know when lockdown will be eased, but our focus for now must be on “driving transmission down and giving people sufficient money so that they are able to stick to the rules, including quarantining”.