With the UK death toll rising by the day it is perhaps worth reflecting on the two decisions the government made at the start of the crisis. Firstly there was the reluctance to follow other nations to impose lockdowns straight away after the first death and then there was the agreement to allow this year’s Cheltenham Festival to take place as planned.
The argument on the former was the desire to to delay the peak of the outbreak until the spring when it was hoped that the NHS would be in a better position to cope with it. That might or might not have been correct and it’s hard to judge it now.
But one thing that really stands out was in the same week that lockdown was being imposed for the Cheltenham Festival which attracts a quarter of million people over the few days being allowed to go ahead. In the Times this morning under the heading “Cheltenham Festival ‘spread coronavirus across country’ the paper notes:
More than 60,000 fans a day were packed into the stands, bars, toilets and queues for the food vans at the world-famous festival with little protection apart from some hand sanitiser stations dotted around the racetrack. .The roar of the crowd at Cheltenham can send a tingle up the spine but the shouting, cheering and drunken singing by tens of thousands of punters packed cheek by jowl in the terraces and bars is a perfect environment for transmission of infection by airborne droplets from the mouth and nose..More than 250,000 people walked in through the gates across the four days – and hundreds of them have claimed online that they have since developed symptoms.
No doubt this will be an issue that will be argued about for years to come. The interesting thing as we look forward is how Boris will deal with the lifting of restrictions and the timetable that’s followed.