The United Kingdom reflects on its own epidemiological errors

In the UK, the House of Commons published the report “Coronavirus: Lessons Learned So Far” on 12 October. It has been worked on by MPs from across the political spectrum, from the Labor Party and the Conservatives, and is part of a parliamentary inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.

Argentina, which appears to be letting go of the worst of Covid-19, could perform a similar exercise.

In the introduction to the British document, it is already clear that the purpose is not to “place blame” but to assess key decisions, structures and factors that led to poor outcomes. The premise is that, regardless of the specific people and decisions, the severity of the pandemic has revealed institutional and governmental weaknesses that must be rectified, looking to the future.

The report devotes most of its attention to the early months of the pandemic and the initial decision to seek herd immunity and resist lockdowns.

Then, this was analyzed as a bad decision: The UK has had worse outcomes in terms of infections and deaths per million inhabitants than economically and socially similar European countries, something that stands out even more when only the development of the disease is considered. England.

Recognizing that at that initial moment the information needed to make decisions was limited, the text notes that part of the error was due to the groupthink or “groupthink” that prevailed in expert panels.

The difficulty of decision-makers to contradict group consensus that was presented as scientifically unquestioned was documented with citations, despite the fact that the evidence regarding disease was variable and uncertain.

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Also highlighted were the massive problems with the Test & Trace programme, which by April 2021 had already cost more than £13 billion. For reference, the annual budget of the Argentine Ministry of Health does not reach two thousand five hundred million pounds.

Beyond the high costs and implementation issues, the truth is that testing and tracing did not achieve its main objective: to avoid introducing new closures.

Other relevant aspects analyzed are health decisions about whether or not to continue independent medical procedures from Covid-19 and the severe impact of the pandemic on vulnerable populations, such as minorities and people with disabilities. While the document describes the “first half” of the epidemic negatively, it praises vaccine development and application campaigns as notable successes.

Described as “the country’s greatest peacetime challenge”, the pandemic is an effective test to demonstrate to us, in all its cruelty, the true ability of public institutions to solve problems. Many countries will use diagnostics of this type as starting points to tackle reforms that are already taking too long.

Argentina, with a performance considered worse than the United Kingdom in all health, social and economic indicators, should conduct a similar analysis process. Health policy, social assistance, education and human rights protection are just some of the areas that are urgent to review in light of the pandemic. The new Congress, which begins in 2022, may be the place to do so.

Pablo Marzuca is a political scientist. MA in Public Policy from Oxford University. Former CEO of Argentina 2030.

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