“We prevented this country from being engulfed by … a catastrophe …. half a million fatalities”

Spin, spin, spin. (Extract from text of last night’s speech).

This is how Boris is trying to spin history, extracting victory from a retreat. He must not be allowed to get away with it.

We must never forget that it was decisions Boris and his Government took to “flatten” the virus spread and seek “herd immunity”, rather than suppress it , that was leading us towards such a catastrophe.

The governments of other European countries took a different path that avoided exposing their people to face such a threat in the first place.

The catastrophe was “prevented” when Boris did his screeching U-turn by imposing a lockdown on March 23. (Lockdown was first discussed in Cobra ten days earlier.)  Had “libertarian” Boris not dithered and imposed the lockdown just one week earlier, then the infection base, which we have subsequently been trying to control, would have been between one quarter and one eighth the size. Covid-19 infections at the time were estimated to be doubling every three to four days. The result would have been that we would be in a much better place now to consider starting to open up the economy.

Owl wonders whether the ambiguities in the messages in the speech will lead us towards another “catastrophe”?

Dr Bharat Pankhania, Exeter University’s infectious disease and public health expert said on BBC Spotlight last night that the changes announced would, in his opinion “inevitably” lead to the “R” number rising to above one i.e. the infection would start to accelerate.

The text of the first two paragraphs for the Prime Minister’s speech is given below. As always the speech, as delivered, may be different and Owl believes Boris actually said 500,000 rather than half a million.

“It is now almost two months since the people of this country began to put up with restrictions on their freedom – your freedom – of a kind that we have never seen before in peace or war. And you have shown the good sense to support those rules overwhelmingly. You have put up with all the hardships of that programme of social distancing. Because you understand that as things stand, and as the experience of every other country has shown, it’s the only way to defeat the coronavirus – the most vicious threat this country has faced in my lifetime.

And though the death toll has been tragic, and the suffering immense, and though we grieve for all those we have lost, it is a fact that by adopting those measures we prevented this country from being engulfed by what could have been a catastrophe in which the reasonable worst-case scenario was half a million fatalities. And it is thanks to your effort and sacrifice in stopping the spread of this disease that the death rate is coming down and hospital admissions are coming down. And thanks to you we have protected our NHS and saved many thousands of lives.”