Oh Well

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March 4, 2020 7:43 p.m.

TPM Reader DF checks in from the post-Brexit UK …

Thanks as usual for you thoughtful coverage of the big picture issues of the day, even if they are not always focused on politics. Coronavirus represents a global challenge, and is a real opportunity for the “adults in the room” to lead. With that in mind, let’s review the response of the UK government (I’m an expat/dual-citizen here, have lived in London for 10+ years, etc).

Every morning, on the main morning news show(s) (BBC Breakfast is the only one I watch, but I’ll bet they are on all of them) the hosts have been interviewing senior officials from the government, both cabinet members (ie, political appointees), and senior civil service officials tasked with preventing the spread of the virus. Specifically, I’m talking about the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, and various officials from Public Health England. Even Boris Johnson has given interviews on this.

Secretary Hancock has repeatedly emphasized the government’s reliance on public health professionals in guiding the official response to the crisis. Someone from PHE was on the TV this morning emphasizing the need to wash hands regularly. Why washing hands? “Because it has proven extremely effective at preventing the spread of disease and has no downsides.” The government is not running away from the problem in any way, but rather emphasizing the need for both the British “keep calm and carry on” mentality, and doing simple things well until there is a clear need to take different action.

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, isn’t it refreshing to see a government respond to a public health crisis by listening to public health experts and follow their advice about public health? While the UK is significantly smaller than the US, it is equally connected to the rest of the world, and will undoubtedly see an increase in the number of infections. At least we’re starting off with an honest government.

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