Show an ad over header. AMP

The U.K. was the most-prepared country for a pandemic — until it wasn't

One country was easily the best-prepared in the world to respond quickly to and mitigate the spread of an epidemic, according to the 2019 Global Health Security Index: Great Britain.

Reality check: When the coronavirus struck, the U.K. had arguably one of the least effective responses among rich countries, despite decades of preparation for just such an event. Its death toll ranks behind only the U.S. and Brazil.


The big picture: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been heavily criticized for failing to prioritize the virus early on, and his scientific advisers came under fire for initially advising against lockdown.

  • Since then, the government has been criticized for not ramping up testing capacity quickly enough and for its struggles on contact tracing.

Flashback: Jeremy Hunt, who served as the U.K.'s health secretary from 2012 to 2018 and now chairs the parliamentary Health and Social Care Select Committee, ran a "huge tabletop exercise" to simulate a pandemic over three days in 2016.

  • That produced a series of recommendations, Hunt told the FT's Payne's Politics podcast. None of them had to do with testing capacity or PPE, because the U.K. was basing its preparations on pandemic flu, Hunt says.
  • When a real-life pandemic struck, the scientific body that advises the government proposed either a herd immunity strategy or lockdown. Test-and-trace wasn't considered.
  • "There was a kind of groupthink in our approach to pandemics that had conditioned us all to think that the way you respond to a pandemic is the way you respond to a flu," he says.

Between the lines: The U.K. had years of preparation to call upon, but it could have also looked around the world and learned from best practices elsewhere.

  • "South Korea was doing what it was doing in January and February, but it wasn't until April that [the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] started to model" that approach, Hunt says.

Worth noting: The U.S. was second in the 2019 rankings on rapid response to an epidemic, while Brazil was also in the "most prepared" category.

  • Some countries much farther down the rankings — Uruguay (81), Vietnam (73) — have fared much better.

The murder hornets are here

Entomologists in Washington state on Thursday discovered the first Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S.

Why it matters: You may know this insect species by its nom de guerre: "the murder hornet." While the threat they pose to humans has been overstated, the invading hornets could decimate local honeybee populations if they establish themselves.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden is highest-spending political candidate on TV ads

After spending an additional $45.2 million on political ads this week, former Vice President Joe Biden has become the highest-spending political candidate on TV ads ever, according to data from Advertising Analytics.

By the numbers: In total, the Biden campaign has spent $582.7 million on TV ads between 2019 and 2020, officially surpassing Michael Bloomberg's record spend of roughly $582 million. Biden's spend includes his primary and general election advertising.

Keep reading... Show less

SurveyMonkey poll: Trump improves, but not enough

President Trump's final debate performance exceeded Americans' expectations, but it wasn't enough to shift the dynamics that left him trailing Joe Biden across most measures, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

What they're saying: "Liar" was the word used most by debate watchers to describe Trump's performance, followed by "lies," "strong," "presidential" and "childish." "Presidential" was the word used most to describe Biden's performance, followed by "liar," "weak," "expected" and "honest."

Keep reading... Show less

Hunter Biden saga dominates online debate

Data: NewsWhip; Table: Axios Visuals

The mainstream media turned away. But online, President Trump's charges about Hunter Biden were by far the dominant storyline about the final presidential debate, according to exclusive NewsWhip data provided to Axios.

  • Coverage of business dealings by Joe Biden's son — and pre-debate allegations by one of his former business associates, Tony Bobulinski — garnered more than twice as much online activity (likes, comments, shares) as the runner-up.
Keep reading... Show less

America was sick well before it ever got COVID-19

From high levels of obesity and opioid addiction to inequities in access to care, America's pre-existing conditionsmake the country an easy target for COVID-19, as well as future pandemics that could cripple the United States for decades to come.

Why it matters: One of the best ways the country could prepare for future threats — and boost its economy — is to improve Americans' overall health.

Keep reading... Show less

Fauci says if people won't wear masks, maybe it should be mandated

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told CNN on Friday evening that if "people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it."

Why it matters: Fauci made the comments the same day the U.S. hit its highest daily COVID-19 case count since the pandemic began.

Keep reading... Show less

Harris to Black voters: Casting a ballot is about honoring your ancestors

Sen. Kamala Harris appealed to Black voters in Georgia on Friday, urging them to "honor the ancestors" by casting ballots, and again calling President Trump a "racist."

Why it matters: The U.S. saw a significant decline in African-American voter turnout between 2012 and 2016, reaching its lowest point since 2000. Higher turnout among Black Americans this year could tip the balance in favor of Democrats in key battleground states, including Georgia.

Keep reading... Show less

U.S. hits highest daily COVID-19 case count since pandemic began

The U.S. confirmed at least 83,010 coronavirus cases on Friday, the country's highest daily total since the pandemic started, according to data from COVID tracking project.

By the numbers: Friday's total surpassed the previous daily case record set on July 17 when 76,842 cases were recorded.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories