Speaking on BBC Question Time on 26 March 2020, Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal, described the government’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic as “a national scandal”. A look through the key moments in the crisis explains why.
The Precautionary Principle
This section contains a collection of primary and supplementary reading around the Precautionary Principle: a non-naive way to avoid paranoia and paralysis when discussing ecological policy. The Precautionary Principle is also on Facebook and Twitter.
An official Government document published in January 2020 confirms that, by delaying action in response to the Coronavirus, officials breached their own internal cross-government standards concerning risks to “human, animal or plant health”.
In the wake of an investigation by the Sunday Times, followed by an unprecedented Government response, the release of this document raises a number of urgent new questions about the Government’s COVID-19 strategy.
Models have been bandied about in the UK which have cost lives, in recent weeks. Reliance on models always carries with it that kind of — deadly — risk.
It is because of pressure from experts and citizens, and because of citizens moving way ahead of Government in implementing physical-distancing measures from the bottom up, that the Johnson Government has finally moved, and that Covid-19 might be starting to be brought under control in the UK. This article explores these vital points, as we move into a three-week ‘lockdown’ period.
The Precautionary Principle can saves lives.
It is hard for humans to imagine things radically outside their own experience.
As there has never been a major worldwide pandemic in this age of globalisation, contemplating that tens — or possibly even hundreds — of millions of people may be about to die is simply not within the realms of things most of us are willing to consider.
- There has never been a major global pandemic in our age of globalised hyper-mobility. This unprecedentedness of our situation is a powerful reason for powerfully employing the Precautionary Principle to reduce our collective exposure to this coronavirus: an exposure which is grave.
- Applying a precautionary approach to COVID-19, so as to stay ahead of the virus, requires much stronger protective measures than have thus far been used, most importantly:
- Pre-emptively reducing physical hyper-connectivity, by way of arresting most air travel (and cruise travel, and some long-distance rail and road travel), and encouraging not just individuals but also geographic communities to self-protect and where necessary self-isolate, pre-emptively and not only reactively.
- There is much chatter in the media about whether we are ‘over-reacting’ to the coronavirus outbreak. This briefing document proposes that in fact we are still under-reacting.