Adopt a phone box for just £1

Owl assumes much the same applies to Devon but has seen no notification.

WEST DORSET communities are being offered a last chance to adopt a BT phone box, or object to their removal.

By Diarmuid MacDonagh

Phone box. Picture: PIXABAY

WEST DORSET communities are being offered a last chance to adopt a BT phone box, or object to their removal.

The company has extended the consultation about the planned removal of more than 20 public red phone boxes from throughout the area.

BT says that overall the use of payphones has declined by 90 per cent over the last ten years and almost the entire area is now covered by a reasonable mobile phone signal. Even in places where there is no measurable signal a 999 call should still work.

Although the traditional red boxes are being decommissioned local communities are being offered the chance to adopt theirs for a nominal £1. In some areas they are used for book swaps, for public notices, or just retained and decorated with flowers.

Among those who have already asked to adopt their local phone box is Puncknowle and Swyre parish council which would like to adopt phone boxes at Church Street, Puncknowle and Bull Lane at Swyre. Chesil Bank parish says it would like to take on the box at Coryates.

Many of the payphones proposed for closure are in villages and hamlets with records showing they have not been used at all in the past year, or used very little.

A new round of consultation for the 23 West Dorset phone boxes will continue until October 7th. A previous consultation, which has now ended, involved around 70 boxes.

BT say they have placed consultation notices on all the phone boxes which might be affected and also notified Dorset Council and the relevant local parish or town council.

Those areas where a consultation is taking place can object or agree the proposed removal, and/or take steps to adopt a phone box. The adoption process is not limited to councils and can be undertaken by community groups.

The full list of boxes which might be affected – Drimpton Road, Broadwindsor; Clay Lane, Beaminster; Wayleave, Whitchurch Canonicorum; A35 Chideock; Askerswell; Long Bredy; Litton Cheney; near Puncknowle Church; Bull Inn, Swyre; Putton Lane, Chickerell; Coryates; Martinstown; Bride Valley Motors, Winterbourne Abbas; Up Sydling; Newton Road, Maiden Newton; Dorchester Road, Stratton; Maud Road, Dorchester; Fordington Cross, Dorchester; Rectory Road, Piddlehinton; Wightmans Orchard, Piddletrenthide; telephone exchange, Buckland Newton; Crouch Lane, Sherborne and Sandford Orcas.

St Mawes named UK’s top seaside resort in Which? poll – Beer in top ten.

For each destination, ratings were given for the beach, food and drink, value for money and peace and quiet, among other things, with scores added up and given out of 100.

Beer scored 80% and comes in top ten; Sidmouth scored 78%  and Exmouth 68%  (Budleigh and Seaton not assessed)  – full list of results here.

Owl thinks Beer better be on stand-by for the invasion! (Which? said those wanting to avoid holiday hotspots could consider some of the highly rated destinations on its list which were less well known.)

St Mawes named UK’s top seaside resort in Which? poll

Hilary Osborne 
Cornish fishing village beats Dartmouth, Southwold and Aldeburgh in readers’ ratings

A sedate fishing village on the tip of a Cornish peninsula has been ranked as the UK’s best coastal destination, beating other better-known seaside resorts to the crown.

St Mawes, which sits on the banks of the Fal estuary and boasts a Tudor castle in the shape of a clover leaf, topped a poll of more than 4,000 readers of Which?, who were asked about their experiences of seaside holidays in the UK.

For each destination, ratings were given for the beach, food and drink, value for money and peace and quiet, among other things, with scores added up and given out of 100.

Those who had visited the Cornish village gave it a score of 85%, recommending the crab baguettes and opportunities for dolphin-spotting from the ferry to Falmouth.

The poll, which was carried out before the coronavirus pandemic, put Dartmouth in south Devon in second spot, with 84% of possible points, followed by the chichi Suffolk resorts of Southwold and Aldeburgh.

The list was unveiled as holiday destinations in England started to gear up for the summer holidays and an expected influx of visitors, with many people rejecting overseas travel in favour of trips closer to home.

Although they might be appealing to families looking for activities and the opportunity for sandcastle building, some more traditional holiday resorts were at the bottom of the Which? readers’ rankings.

Skegness, home of the original Butlins, scored just 44% from visitors, getting three stars for its award-winning beach but just one star for value for money, scenery and attractions.

However, one visitor told Which?: “Don’t be put off by the stereotypical opinions of Skegness. It’s a well maintained, vibrant area.”

Great Yarmouth in Norfolk and Clacton-on-Sea were also in the bottom five.

Which? said those wanting to avoid holiday hotspots could consider some of the highly rated destinations on its list which were less well known.

For example in Wales, where self-contained holiday lets recently reopened and campsites will be up and running from 25 July, instead of heading to Llandudno and Conwy, Which? recommends Criccieth. The town, which got a score of 74%, claims to be “the pearl of Wales on the shores of Snowdonia”.

Rory Boland, the Which? travel editor, said: “It is a good time to explore parts of the country you may not have considered before and to spread our sandcastles beyond the beaches of Devon and Cornwall. As our survey shows, it’s smaller seaside towns and villages with fewer visitors that holidaymakers love.”

Marine Conservation faces backlash – does EDDC have a view?

In early June the Government published the Benyon Report into Marine Conservation Areas. The Report recommended the rapid creation of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA) out of existing  “marine protection areas” that many conservation groups call “paper parks” with few rules. This could include Lyme Bay.

In an earlier post linking to the Benyon Report, Owl commented: “Owl’s view is that  Marine Conservation Areas, creation of a new East Devon and Dorset National Park and the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Coast are all components of the  “joined up” environmental approach EDDC needs to be thinking about.”

Now the backlash (Owl can imagine what the Carters’ view might be):

Anglers face ban on fishing in protected English waters

Will Humphries Southwest Correspondent (The Times)

“Recreational anglers, charter boat captains and tackle shop owners are fighting a proposed ban on fishing in large parts of the sea around England under plans to create the first fully protected marine conservation areas.

A government-commissioned review, chaired by the former Conservative fisheries minister Richard Benyon, has recommended the rapid creation of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs). All “extractive activities”, including dredging, sewage dumping, drilling, offshore wind turbine construction and catch-and-release recreational angling, would be prohibited.

The recommendation angered commercial fishermen and recreational anglers who accused the review of failing to take account of the impact on their livelihoods and sport.

There are 175 marine protected areas in English waters but many are what conservation groups call “paper parks”, with few rules. HPMAs will be within these areas and could include the fishing port of Brixham in Devon and Chesil Beach in Dorset, where thousands of anglers cast off every year.

The Angling Trust said it was shocked that the review had “lumped in” recreational angling with industrial practices without consulting members.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said that if HPMAs were set up those affected would be consulted.”


Coronavirus pandemic has knocked two years off life expectancy for average Brit

The study from Oxford University found that life expectancy for women has been cut from 83.5 years in 2019 to 81.8 years for those born in the first half of 2020, and from 79.9 years to 78 years for men.

Rachel Endley 

The coronavirus pandemic has slashed the life expectancy for Brits by two years, a study has revealed.

Researchers have found that Covid-19 has taken life expectancy in England and Wales back to 2008 levels.

The study from Oxford University found that life expectancy for women has been cut from 83.5 years in 2019 to 81.8 years for those born in the first half of 2020, and from 79.9 years to 78 years for men.

The study – designed to estimate the burden of Covid-19 on mortality and life expectancy in England and Wales – found the two nations were “amongst the worst performers in terms of excess deaths”.

It has raised fears that a possible second wave of the virus could impact life expectancy even further and its long-term health effects could also lead to earlier deaths.

Lead researcher Jose Manuel Aburto, of the Department of Sociology at Oxford University, explained that life expectancy in England and Wales had been steadily improving for 50 years before stagnating in the past decade.

The study stated: “We have provided estimates of life expectancy for 2019 and the first half of 2020, which show that life expectancy dropped a staggering 1.7 and 1.9 years for females and males respectively between those years.

“To put this in perspective, male and female life expectancy in the first half of 2020 regressed to the levels of 2008.”

The peer-reviewed study used official data on all-cause mortality from the Office for National Statistics from March 2 – the first time a Covid-19 death in England and Wales was registered – to the end of June.

A team of researchers then compared this data with previous trends, looking at excess death and life expectancy and lifespan inequality.

The study continued: “Quantifying excess deaths and their impact on life expectancy at birth provides a more comprehensive picture of the full Covid-19 burden on mortality.

A graph showing the ‘long tail’ of the coronavirus pandemic

“Whether mortality will return to or even fall below the base-line level remains to be seen.”

The shocking data has been released as the UK’s overall coronavirus death toll increased to 45,233 yesterday.

Yesterday’s death toll of 114 is more than double the 48 deaths that were recorded last Friday (July 10). The Friday before (July 3) recorded an increase of 137.

This week the increases have been 11 on Monday, 138 on Tuesday, 85 on Wednesday, 66 yesterday and 114 today.

The figures, released by the Department of Health and Social Care, includes fatalities that happened weeks or even months ago that have only been added to the official statistics in the previous 24 hours.

Of the 45,233 deaths 40,640 have been in England, 556 in Northern Ireland, 2,491 in Scotland and 1,546 in Wales.

A Better Way to Go – Towards a Zero Covid UK – Independent Sage 17 July

This is the second half of an open letter sent by Independent SAGE to  Chris Witty, Chief Medical Officer.

2020 07 17 A Better Way To Go

Independent SAGE has seen no evidence that the government has a considered strategy for the next stages of handling the pandemic in the UK. It is clear that the government has consistently failed to heed broad-based scientific advice, including that from the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, such as large scale testing with test results available within 24 hours or less, a strong Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support system to break chains of transmission and robust and continued public health messaging campaigns to reiterate the importance of personal protective behaviours (e.g. hand washing, social distancing, avoiding crowded spaces, wearing a face covering where you cannot avoid such spaces). Similarly, the government does not appear to have learned from the experiences of other countries that have been successful in achieving elimination or near elimination of the infection. 

We fear that the government has given up trying to control the pandemic further and is hoping that by reacting to local outbreaks as and when they happen (e.g. the current Leicester lockdown), it can keep levels of infection at what they regard as a ‘manageable level’ (i.e their current quite high but not catastrophic levels). Independent SAGE believes that this is not acceptable, that we should not give up. Thousands of lives could be saved over the next year by a renewed effort to further suppress the virus.

The UK strategy should have at its heart a commitment to fully control the disease and to move towards elimination as soon as possible. The government must share that strategy with the public and seek their support and assistance in seeing it implemented. The four countries of the UK are not in the same position with regard to the pandemic and each part of the UK should develop its own programme of action in keeping with an overall goal of elimination of the virus, which is the achievement of a ‘Zero COVID UK’. 

The planks of this strategy to achieve a Zero COVID UK should be to:

  • Fully develop community-based and locally led Find, Test, Trace, Isolate, Support (FTTIS) programmes with expanded local laboratory provision, involvement of local public sector organisations and provision of all the resources necessary to enable adherence to the regulations on notification of infectious disease 


  • Restrict loosening of lockdown measures in any part of the UK until control of the outbreak has been achieved in that country


  • Put in place well designed and scientifically based plans to act swiftly to contain and suppress completely and localise flare-ups in COVID-19 infections. Such plans to be exercised in simulation and well understood by the public before they have cause to be put into effect and implemented with full engagement with the communities affected 


  • Restrict incoming or outgoing personal travel internationally and within Britain and Ireland to the extent necessary to maintain control of the epidemic and, in particular to ensure effective isolation of incoming passengers. 


  • Combine all these measures with a systematic public information campaign stressing that things are not ‘back to normal’ yet, that premature removal of restrictions in the midst of a deadly pandemic threatens to squander all the sacrifices of lockdown and that strict compliance with restrictions now will make a full return to normality come sooner. The public messaging must be done in a culturally acceptable manner to reach all communities especially those that have been disproportionately affected such as the deprived and ethnic minority populations.


In Scotland and Northern Ireland (and also in the Republic of Ireland) both the numbers of deaths and the numbers of newly positive cases are very low. Both Scotland and Northern Ireland should continue to increase their efforts until control is assured and there is, in effect, a Zero COVID Scotland and a Zero COVID island of Ireland. In the case of Northern Ireland, an all-island approach to the pandemic should immediately be adopted using the Memorandum of Understanding already in place with the Republic of Ireland. As Scotland and the island of Ireland achieve full control, travel restrictions between them should be reconsidered alongside normalisation of social and economic activity. 

It seems sensible that travel restrictions should either be instituted on public health grounds between England (and Wales) and Ireland and Scotland, or instituted if they are not already in operation. The Republic of Ireland has already instituted requirements arriving directly from Britain.

The achievement of a zero COVID Britain and Ireland will require the cooperation of the UK government in Westminster, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and, importantly, the Irish Government. The advantages would be manifest and wide-ranging, including the ability to lift all social distancing restrictions, revitalise economies, fully reopen all educational establishments and work towards unrestricted travel arrangements with similar Zero COVID countries.

If the UK government is not prepared to accept this advice, based as it is on the best scientific understanding of the pandemic, it must (as a matter of urgency) outline its strategic plan for the rest of the period of this pandemic and the analysis and advice upon which such a plan is based.

‘Working party’ formed in Budleigh Salterton to boost High Street safety

Budleigh Salterton Town Council has set up a working party to boost safety and social distancing in High Street – after ditching plans for a temporary one-way system.

East Devon Reporter 
Members agreed to the move this week having formally scrapped a controversial traffic order which had sparked a protest petition from traders.

The five-strong new group will also aim to encourage use of the shops.

One representative told colleagues he felt some residents’ voices had been ‘overshadowed’ by business owners who successfully called for the one-way system to be scrapped.

The council had previously issued a public apology after traders objected to the mooted scheme and bemoaned a lack of consultation.

Monday’s meeting heard the new working party could do the ‘donkey work’ in exploring how to keep shoppers safe and then bring any proposals back to the authority.

“We have an important thing to do now, immediately, with the town, not against the town,” said Councillor Penny Lewis

“We need a group now to deal with the Covid-19 issue.”

Cllr Megan Kenneally-Stone said: “There are people avoiding High Street. It’s not safe to walk down with your children. This problem isn’t going away.

“We have concerns from traders and concerns from residents who aren’t using High Street because it’s not safe.

“All we’re trying to do is keep residents safe.

“People are walking down the middle of the road when they can’t walk on the pavements.”

She added: “I suggest we need people who represent families in the community to give their input.”

Cllr Henry Riddell told the meeting: “It isn’t just traders in town its affecting, it’s residents as well.”

He said that he and colleagues had received messages of support over the one-way system, adding: “Voices of traders have overshadowed some of the residents in the town.”

Cllr Riddell called for the council to ‘work with everyone’ and ‘not just those whose voices seem to be the loudest’.

He said of the petition against the scheme: “Five thousand people live in Budleigh, 100 signatures isn’t a lot.”

County councillor Christine Channon had told members: “In three days, over 100 people who were residents signed that petition.

“We’ve got to be careful distinguishing between residents and traders, there was very strong feeling there.”

Councillors voted by eight to one in favour of forming the working party.

They had earlier in the meeting voted by six to three to formally withdraw an application to Devon County Council for the Temporary Traffic Restriction Order.

Inside the NHS Nightingale Exeter ready for second wave of covid

The Government announced on Friday that £3billion would be made available to help the NHS cope with a second wave in the autumn. The NHE, which is housed in the former Homebase store on the Sowton Industrial Estate, has a lease until April.

Paul Greaves

Exeter’s £23million NHS Nightingale Hospital will be given a new injection of cash to help to clear the backlog of seriously ill people caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Health bosses have given a first glimpse inside the new hospital which was designed to cope with an expected surge of COVID-19 patients but has now been repurposed for those needing other treatments, particularly cancer testing.

It has already begun to take its first patients – and on Friday was promised extra Government cash to prepare it for a second wave of coronavirus should it happen in the autumn.

Until then, the five new treatment wards and 116 beds will be used for diagnostic testing. A CT scanner will see more than 2,000 patients scanned within a 12 week period, targeting those with the longest waiting times across the whole of Devon and Cornwall.

NHS Nightingale Hospitals were set set up in response to what happened when the coronavirus tore through Northern Italy in March. The UK Government feared there would not be enough space in local hospitals here should the pandemic prove as deadly.

Dr Rob Dyer, strategic medical director, said the Nightingale Exeter was part of the planning for a worst case coronavirus scenario. But while cases remain low the hospital would be used for other purposes.

He said: “The number of people with covid in Devon and Cornwall at the moment is quite low so its not necessary to open for covid patients. What we’re doing is looking at how we can use the facility to its best in the period between then and now. The CT scanner is the first of those efforts.”

He said the hospital has been designed to be flexible in its use and will, more generally, provide additional patient capacity within the health system.

The five wards include two intensive care units with ventilators for seriously ill patients. Areas within the hospital are colour-coded as part of a carefully designed covid infection protection plan.

“The primary purpose of the Nightingale is of course for treating COVID patients,” said Dr Dyer. “We have to be ready at any time to change focus onto looking after those patients so within seven days we can stand it up to deal with significant numbers of covid patients.

“We don’t know of course whether we’ll get another surge, perhaps more likely it will be a steady increase in covid patients.

“Until then we’re using the unit as part of the whole system response to managing those patients, coordinating with the other hospitals to work out what’s the right time to start admitting people.”

Devon and Cornwall has the lowest number of coronavirus patients in hospital in the country. Currently there are believed to be only four across the two counties.

The Government announced on Friday that £3billion would be made available to help the NHS cope with a second wave in the autumn. The NHE, which is housed in the former Homebase store on the Sowton Industrial Estate, has a lease until April.

Dr Dyer said it remained to be seen where the extra money would be spent but the hospital is expected to remain in operation beyond April.

“It’s a great, well designed, flexible facility which I’m sure can be used for all sorts of purposes and we’re looking at how we can make the most of it for the next few years,” he said.

The hospital has not yet been needed to treat coronavirus patients.

Dr Rob Dyer, Strategic Medical Director and Chantal Baker, Assistant Director of Nursing

It is one of seven NHS Nightingale Hospitals across the country, joining others in Bristol, Birmingham, Harrogate, London, Manchester and Sunderland.

Nearly 140 staff have now been inducted and are ready to work in NHE. They will remain in their home trusts, using their skills to support patients across Devon until NHE is needed. More than 400 staff from hospitals across Devon and Cornwall will work there.

Why did the UK’s coronavirus response go so wrong?

“The problem for ministers, Whitehall officials and scientists is that it is not hindsight that condemns them. The SAGE minutes from February are explicit that they had all the information they needed to protect the UK. But for reasons they are yet to adequately explain, they were never confident they could do more than ‘reduce the peak incidence of cases’.”

Robert Peston

The cost of Covid-19 in the UK, in 45,000 lives lost and considerably more if ‘excess’ deaths are included, in long term illness for tens of thousands, and in damage to our prosperity, is changing everything.

But did the shock have to be so great? Could the government have done more to protect us?

Among the questions that will be examined by Boris Johnson’s promised public inquiry is why vulnerable residents in care homes were put at serious risk, why health care workers struggled for months to obtain vital protective equipment, whether travellers from the viral hotspots of Italy, Spain and France should have been quarantined, whether the full lockdown could and should have been implemented a week or more earlier, and why the UK did not increase virus testing capacity much earlier.

There is one question that overarches all the rest, and it is why ministers and officials allowed the risk to build and build and build, during February and early March. The policy, as recorded in the minutes of a meeting of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies on 25 February, was that ‘interventions should seek to contain, delay and reduce the peak incidence of cases, in that order’.

There was seemingly no consideration given, till the illness was spreading virulently, to the Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese and Singaporean strategies of attempting to eliminate the virus altogether through mass testing in the community and isolation of infected and potentially infected individuals. To the contrary, most of the early debate was about when to suspend test and trace in the population as a whole, not how to expand it.

So what went wrong?

There is no defence for the government in ignorance of the risks.

I have trawled the minutes of the nine meetings in February of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the committee of scientists, doctors and experts that has been shaping the government’s response to the crisis, and reviewed notes of my own contemporaneous meetings with ministers and officials. This is what they show:

1) The government knew, from 11 February, that unchecked, coronavirus could cause the deaths of more than 500,000 people. A senior minister that evening told me ‘the risk is 60 per cent of the population getting it; with a mortality rate of perhaps just over 1 per cent, we are looking at not far off 500,000 deaths’. Despite the desperately worrying risk that was communicated to ministers by SAGE members and notably the chief medical officer Chris Whitty, SAGE that same day decided that ‘it is not possible for the UK to accelerate diagnostic capability to include Covid-19 alongside regular flu testing in time for the onset of winter flu season 2020-21.’

2) From 13 February, there was an assumption that China would be unable to contain the virus. ‘SAGE and wider HMG should continue to work on the assumption that China will be unable to contain the epidemic’, the minutes say. In other words, SAGE knew that it was highly unlikely that the UK could insulate itself from Covid-19.

3) Also on 13 February, SAGE said that ‘the most effective way to limit spread in prisons at this stage would be by reducing transfer of individuals between prisons’. But what now seems extraordinary and reckless is that there was no similar recommendation to prevent care workers moving between care homes, where residents are much more vulnerable than prisoners, or to deter older people going to care homes from hospitals without first being tested for the virus.

4) On 18 February, SAGE identified that Public Health England did not have the capacity to carry out contact tracing – finding those possibly infected – for a case load of infected people greater than 50 new cases a week. It tried to make a virtue of this weakness by deciding it would no longer ‘be useful’ to continuing the tracing of infected people ‘when there is sustained transmission in the UK’. In the event, and disastrously some would say, testing of infected people in the community and tracing those to whom they may have passed the virus was formally abandoned on 12 March.

5) On 20 February, SAGE approved Public Health England’s strategy of discontinuing contract tracing when cases of Coronavirus in the UK could no longer be directly linked to infection abroad.

6) That same SAGE meeting said there was ‘evidence of local transmission unlinked to individuals who have travelled from China in Japan, Republic of Korea and Iran’. In other words, China had failed to contain the virus.

7) The official policy, by 25 February, was one of relative fatalism, in that SAGE concluded that ‘interventions should seek to contain, delay and reduce the peak incidence of cases, in that order’. There was NO consideration given to the Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese and Singaporean strategies of attempting to eliminate the virus altogether through mass testing and isolation of infected and potentially infected individuals. The view of SAGE, of the CMO Chris Witty, and the CSO  Patrick Vallance, quite explicitly, was that the virus would have to work its way through the population, one way or another.

8) By 27 February, ‘the reasonable worst case scenario’ was 80 per cent of the UK population becoming infected and 1 per cent dying – and although this would equate to more than 500,000 deaths, it was described in SAGE’s minutes as representing ‘a reduction in the number of excess deaths relative to previous planning assumptions’. On 26 February, the SAGE secretariat produced a briefing note for SAGE members saying there were no clinical countermeasures available for Covid-19 and no vaccine ‘was likely to be available in a UK epidemic.’

9) That same SAGE secretariat briefing note says ‘asymptomatic transmission cannot be ruled out and transmission from mildly symptomatic people is likely.’ This is highly significant, in view of the PM’s statement on 8 July at Prime Minister’s Questions that more measures to protect vulnerable residents in care homes had not been taken because ‘the one thing nobody knew early on during this pandemic was that the virus was being passed asymptomatically from person to person in the way that it is’.

What emerges from the SAGE minutes of those February meetings is that almost none of the havoc subsequently wreaked by Coronavirus should have come as a surprise to its members, or the Whitehall ministers and officials it advises. What they also show is that many weeks before the virus was present in the UK in any scale, it was baked into official thinking that large scale testing would not be part of the solution.

But those minutes leave unanswered a number of profoundly important questions. They include:

a) Why was no consideration ever seemingly given to rapidly expanding testing capacity, so as to adopt the strategy so successful in Asia, and latterly in Germany, of testing infected people and rapidly tracing and isolating their contacts – which eventually became British policy, but too late to dampen the initial infection rate and death toll?

b) Why was there never a single SAGE discussion in February of whether there was enough PPE for healthcare workers and others at greatest risk of becoming infected or infecting the vulnerable?

c) Was the cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill aware in February of the magnitude of the threat posed to the UK by the virus and did he become engaged in assessing whether enough was being done to protect the UK?

d) Why was the health secretary Matt Hancock, rather than the prime minister, leading the political and government response to the virus, until the beginning of March?

e) Why – and this is the biggest question of all – had Whitehall and ministers not learned the most important lesson from the banking crisis of 2007-8, which is that when there is a reasonable prospect of catastrophe, it is far better to intervene early and with devastating force, than do the minimum and hope for the best?

The problem for ministers, Whitehall officials and scientists is that it is not hindsight that condemns them. The SAGE minutes from February are explicit that they had all the information they needed to protect the UK. But for reasons they are yet to adequately explain, they were never confident they could do more than ‘reduce the peak incidence of cases’.