Home Covid-19 Something Is Seriously Wrong With The British Coronavirus Response

Something Is Seriously Wrong With The British Coronavirus Response



The aim of having a lockdown was to suffer inevitable damage to the economy while protecting lives. Fair enough, at some level of economic pain that benefit makes clear sense. At another level of either or benefit and cost it does not. Quite where those levels are is not the point under discussion today.

Rather, what we’re all looking for is the least cost at the most benefit. That’s just how we humans work, we want the most for the least. So, the UK appears to have had more economic cost at a worse toll in lives. What’s therefore wrong with the system?

Here we have the Office for National Statistics with the GDP numbers:

The UK has suffered much, much, more economic pain than most others.

Here we have the population death rate. This being the correct number to use. Infections that don;t cause significant problems are not a problem, rather, they’re desirable, for that gets us closer to herd immunity. It’s how many people die that matters:

The UK has suffered the most economic pain and also the highest death rate. That is, given the costs an benefits thing, the UK has the worst in the rich world performance.

At which point we’d like to know why, obviously.

It’s not just that we’ve a right wing government – in itself a laughable claim anyway. The US is further right than we are and they did markedly better. The death rate is slightly better and the economic loss is half of our.

The unique thing about the British system is that Wonder of the World, the National Health Service. Which is where inquiries about what the hell happened probably need to start. For us to gain twice the pain for less gain is something caused by something, it’s not mere happenstance.

Of course, it could just be that British government – as opposed to the current flavour of party currently doing it – just isn’t institutionally competent and doing things. But then that brings us back to the NHS of course.



  1. It would be instructive for us all to see the ‘cost -benefit analysis’ carried out by this Government that was used to justify lockdown. Oh, sorry, there wasn’t one.

    I could call this government incompetent, but I prefer criminally negligent.

  2. But being paid to stay at home watching telly *is* greatest gain for minimum pain. What’s not to like? Don’t have to justify occupying the office, avoid all those snotty kids, no marking to do, pass the prosecco.

  3. Not to prejudge the outcome here, but I suspect the answer is that the figures being reported for deaths of COVID-19 are bogus and down to misleading reporting by Public Health England (probably others as well) who are either incompetent, trying to inflate the figures to get more money from HM Treasury or most likely both.

    Sack the lot of ’em is the only solution.

  4. Wouldn’t it be better to use excess death figures?

    It’s irrelevant if I die of Covid or drink myself to death watching social distanced This Morning, both are a result of the lockdown.

    In addition excess deaths is probably a much more accurate figure

  5. Is this international comparison flawed because the UK is reflecting lower output of teaching and health (and I laugh at the ONS saying the health service was delivering 73% of normal service) whilst other countries are using cost=output? [Something I would never have known if not for your piece on tw.com]

  6. Since the data for deaths in the UK has been revealed to be flawed, making any analysis using it will be flawed.

    Since most of the data concerning SARS-2 is suspect from any Country, deaths ‘from’ conflated with deaths ‘with’, positive tests being published as new cases but being nothing of the sort, and ‘spikes’ in positive tests actually being ‘spikes’ in testing, drawing any conclusions based on ‘the figures’ and making international comparisons is troublesome.

    However: what we do know is that SARS-2 has caused no more deaths than a moderate to bad influenza season and probably most SARS-2 deaths would have occurred anyway from the existing medical condition(s), influenza or pneumonia. That means that no lives were saved, death in some instances maybe delayed, deaths were predominantly among the elderly, non-productive population, so by any measure the cost of Government action was many times the cost of any benefit, and a cost that will continue to rise as deaths of non-SARS-2 occur and loss of economic activity directly related to Government measures carries on.

  7. Excess deaths is all we’ve got but still imperfect. Currently running at 60,000 for year to date, give or take.
    But deaths in the last 104 weeks are 1,106,979 and in the previous 104 weeks 1,076,874, so a difference of just over 30,000. So still bad, but it does show we had a good year and a half of overall health (i,e, not dying as much) before CV-19 came along.
    And does population growth make a difference? With say a population growth of 1% every 2 years and if evenly spread across the ages, then you could justify expecting 10,000 deaths in a million deaths to be due to that growth.
    That still leaves 20,000 deaths that maybe should not have happened. So still bad.

  8. @John B
    Most SARS-2 deaths would have occurred anyway – if you mean that most people who died from SARS-2 would have died sometime, sooner or later, then that must be true unless The Second Coming is imminent. BUT that does not mean that they would all have died soon. A young Actuary has done the sums and his report has been referenced on Tim’s old blog.
    It is NOT TRUE to say that no lives have been saved by lockdown and this rather spoils your argument (which may be true) that the cost of lockdown far exceedsthe benefit.

  9. @ Bongo
    Re: impact of population growth
    What matters is the increase in expected deaths as the number in the high-risk ages increase *but* the “baby bom” from 1946 to 1949 was followed by a dip for several years. The recent increase in population is overwhelmingly due to net immigration (including the children of migrants born in the UK) and has little impact of the number of expected deaths.

  10. I’d suggest one minor and one major factor inflating the UK deaths/million (in addition to the PHE/ONS overcounting all deaths of anyone who had ever tested positive). The minor one is that the true UK population is known to be significantly in excess of the official numbers, the size of the excess isn’t known but it’s certainly a few percent (the same thing is true of most countries, but the UK is a definite outlier). But the big factor is population density. The UK (England, anyway) not only has big cities (as does the US), but outside those big cities large tracts of the US has a population density comparable to Norway or northern Scotland. It’s obvious that population density has a big initial effect on the number of cases.

    If I’m right that this is a significant factor, and if it’s the case that we won’t be able to stop the majority of the population eventually contracting the disease (absent a vaccine or effective treatment), I’d expect to see other countries start to catch up with the UK.

  11. @ Quentin Vole
    Quite true *but* the population density should boost the infection rate (R is likely to to have an inverse-square law in its formula) and it’s the death per infection rate that is particularly bad for the UK. UK has a high test-per-million figure so it’s infection rate should be less understated than most other countries.

  12. Our death rate is high partly because we performed an effective flu vaccination program last year so lots of folks clinging on to life didn’t die of seasonal flu, hence were finished off by the next thing. The better a health service is at routinely prolonging life, the worse it will fare when something comes along where the main “cure” is people’s resilience and their immune system.


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in British English
expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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