The UK Government’s response to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak has been criticised for lacking clarity.
However, at the first of his daily briefings on the crisis, Boris Johnson sought to cut through the muddle as he announced a series of “draconian” measures designed to “minimise suffering and save life”.
Anyone with either a high temperature or a “new and continuous cough” and anyone who lives with someone showing those symptoms should stay at home for 14 days, the Prime Minister said, warning that without “drastic action” cases could potentially double every five or six days.
He urged people in that situation to ask for help to get food and supplies so they could avoid going out, adding that everyone should avoid non-essential contact and unnecessary travel; work from home if possible; stop going to pubs, clubs and theatres; and try to take the strain off the NHS. Those with the most serious health conditions would soon have to be shielded from social contact for about 12 weeks.
Across Europe and the world, similar measures are being taken. If anything, the steps being taken in places like Italy, France and Germany are more draconian with many shops and other premises ordered to close.
Johnson stressed the decisions the UK Government was taking were based on expert advice about the correct timing of such measures and warned businesses could be ordered to close at a later date. Eventually, there will be a time to assess the actions taken by Johnson and his advisers, but now the most important thing for the public to do is follow the official advice.
The Government’s job is to put a plan in place. Our job, bluntly, is to follow it. The Government may not have got everything right and experts may need to thrash out a better course of action over the coming days, weeks and months, but that is for them.
If everyone in the country develops their own personal theories about the best thing to do, or trusts egotistical celebrities over doctors and scientists, the result is likely to be a chaotic mess of misinformation that will have one main result – more people will die.
We are in a deadly crisis and finding our way out of it will require us to work together in a spirit of cooperation. We need to help one another where we can. But the authorities will also need to clamp down on those who willfully disobey the rules.