What's Going On: Responding to Covid19

In the recent weeks, it has been hard to find a more compelling topic than the coronavirus. The outbreak, now pandemic, has claimed lives all over the world and threatened the economies of countless countries. Sectors such as the airline and retail industry have experienced a major upheaval, meaning that many of jobs could be lost or damaged. Many countries have imposed lockdown, confining millions to their houses, unable to work or even provide for their families, in the case of some. Yet every countries's response has been different. Some prioritised the people over everything, while others were more wary of the economy.


The UK initially decided on using the herd immunity system. This is a tactic that theorises that if 60% of the population contracts and becomes immune to the virus, then the UK would have a reduced risk of suffering from another similar outbreak, and end lockdown measures sooner than most other countries. This would mean that quarantine rules would not be imposed, and the United Kingdom's economy would remain more or less intact. There are, however, various obvious and major flaws in this method. Herd immunity without a vaccine would come at the cost of possibly thousands of deaths, and is incredibly risky. If not managed properly hospitals could overflow with patients, and have to end up refusing entry to patients at a serious risk of dying from the disease. The prime minister of the Netherlands also hinted at considering a similar plan, saying that they could "slow down the spread of the virus while at the same time building group immunity in a controlled way". However a few weeks later, having received criticism from over 200 scientists, the UK were forced to clarify that herd immunity was not the definitive option, just a theory, and imposed quarantine a few days later.

The fact that they were so late to consider lockdown could have negative consequences. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, told BBC that "We knew in the last week of January that this was coming. The message from China was absolutely clear that a new virus with pandemic potential was hitting cities. ... We knew that 11 weeks ago and then we wasted February when we could have acted." These weeks of little action from the government lead to the UK having over 40,000 cases, currently 8th in the world. Boris Johnson had remained quite calm in regard to the outbreak, saying that he had gone around shaking hands around a hospital for hours with no problems, until he himself contracted the disease. He has stated that he will continue to manage the response of the United Kingdom through video conference.

Spain, however, was faster than the UK. The Spanish government announced complete lockdown a valuable week before the UK, having already closed schools and museums for a week. The trend would therefore suggest that Spain's cases would be lower, but unfortunately, this isn't the case. Spain now has more cases than Italy, and is the second most infected country in the world. Spain only falls behind the United States, a country nineteen times its size. Some believe it's because of Spain's healthcare, weakened by austerity measures taken by Mariano Rajoy, but it's more likely that Spain's lack of preparation or equipment ultimately meant that they suffered more than other countries. Although no country was prepared for an event of this scale, countries and regions like Taiwan or Germany had a specific plan set in place for if a pandemic occurred. This is very common in Asian countries, who were alerted after the SARS outbreak.

Spain also lacks the proper equipment, with Germany and Austria having three times more hospital beds per capita, for example. Hospitals around Madrid are running out of masks, which had not been provided by the government, and have had to seek them elsewhere. But perhaps the biggest problem is a lack of health-care workers, affecting countries all over Europe. “A lot of staff are in quarantine, and those who aren’t end up doing shift on top of another shift”, said an unnamed Portuguese doctor.

Both Spain and the UK have not dealt with the coronavirus to the best of their abilities, and the evidence shows in the numbers. Although both President Sanchez and Boris Johnson have remained positive on the matter, the uncertainty of the coronavirus has left many people worried about how their country is coping with the virus. This crisis is bound to bring economic problems, and how serious they are for each country depends on how they first reacted to the outbreak.


Lorenzo N, Year 9

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