UK Coronavirus Efforts Under the Microscope


Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

Daniel Wilcox, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The United Kingdom is currently one of the countries worst affected by COVID-19, with official UK government figures showing that 14,576 people have died in hospitals, as of April 16. As these figures do not include those that have died in households or care homes, the actual figure is likely to be much higher. Reports from the Telegraph have suggested that the final death toll in the UK could be the largest in Europe, overtaking Italy and Spain, with the figure reaching more than 37,000. 

The British government has frequently espoused the phrase telling people to stay home, of: “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives,” making reference to the UK universal healthcare provider, the National Health Service. There have been fears, similar to other countries, of the healthcare system being overrun by patients suffering from coronavirus, with the Independent commenting in March that European Union health authorities believed that it was highly likely that health systems in Europe would not be able to cope with the added pressure from the virus. As recently as 2018, as reported by the Guardian newspaper, protesters had frequently argued against “budget cuts and constraints” brought in by the current Conservative Party government, in power since 2010. Under the Conservatives policy of austerity, brought in after the 2008 Financial Crisis to reduce debts and public spending, the NHS has seen increasing wait times and a fear of a lack of resources from hospitals. 

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Conservative Member of Parliament, Matt Hancock has been at the forefront of the UK’s efforts to combat the virus, especially after the hospitalization of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who continues to be resting at the Prime Minister’s country residence, Chequers, after testing positive for the coronavirus and subsequently having been placed into intensive care. On his Twitter account, Hancock explained on April 16 that the government is “ramping up coronavirus testing”, one of the areas that Britain has been seen to be lacking, compared to other European countries like Germany. On April 2, during one of the government’s daily press briefings, Hancock set the target of “100,000 tests per day” by the end of the month. This compares with the current number of less than 16,000 tests, in the 24 hours of Wednesday, April 15. 

Similar to other countries, every Thursday evening at 8:00 PM BST, the public celebrates the work being done by workers in the NHS, with clapping and other shows of support. With a lockdown having been introduced on March 23, much later than other countries, according to the BBC, and having been extended recently to at least the beginning of May, the country has seen a great number of people unable to work. The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has introduced initiatives to ensure that British workers do not face complete economic hardship. As announced on March 20 at a daily briefing, the British government has agreed to pay 80% of the wages of furloughed workers, in an attempt to prevent the mass layoff of workers unable to be paid. Nonetheless, a record 950,000 people applied for benefits during the first two weeks of the UK lockdown, according to the Guardian.