Boris Johnson insisted “we did everything we could” last night as he addressed the nation to give the horrifying news that the UK’s Covid-19 death toll has now reached 100,000.
The Prime Minister offered his “deepest condolences” to those who have lost relatives to coronavirus and pledged to ensure their loved ones are remembered during the press conference.
“What I can tell you is that we truly did everything we could, and continue to do everything that we can, to minimise loss of life and to minimise suffering in what has been a very, very difficult stage, and a very, very difficult crisis for our country,” he added.
Britain is just one of five countries to hit the grim milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths and it has one of the worst mortality rates in the world.
Only the US, Brazil, India and Mexico – all of which have far higher populations than the UK – have recorded more deaths, meaning Britain now has the highest number of Covid deaths per million population in the world.
In total, UK Covid deaths have surpassed the Great Plague, Aids pandemic and every terror attack and war since 1945 combined, and the end is still not in sight.
Compare that to New Zealand, where there have been just 2,295 cases and only 25 deaths and you get a stark sense of perspective.
A true leader; compassionate, intelligent, pragmatic, respectful.— Dr. Jennifer Cassidy (@OxfordDiplomat) January 26, 2021
PM @jacindaardern explains why her policies saved thousands of lives & prevented overwhelmed hospitals.
Her series of decisions made NZ one of the top pandemic conquering nations on Earth.pic.twitter.com/d8I1g4M2E6
Flattening the curve was ‘not sufficient’ for us
At the start of the pandemic, not content with ‘flattening the curve’ or mitigating the spread of the disease Jacinda Ardern moved to completely clear New Zealand of coronavirus – and succeeded in doing so, twice.
In an interview with The Associated Press, she said the target grew from an early realisation the nation’s health system simply could not cope with a big outbreak.
“I remember my chief science adviser bringing me a graph that showed me what flattening the curve would look like for New Zealand. And where our hospital and health capacity was. And the curve wasn’t sitting under that line. So we knew that flattening the curve wasn’t sufficient for us.”
Ms Ardern said she did not worry that elimination might prove impossible, because even if New Zealand did not get there, the approach still would have saved lives.
“The alternative is to set a lesser goal, and then still misfire,” she said.
Rather than dilly-dallying or taking a reactive approach Ardern led decisively, shutting the country’s borders, enforcing a strict lockdown and running an effective testing and tracing system.
This week she signalled that there would be no relenting on that approach, announcing that the borders will stay closed until citizens are ‘vaccinated and protected.
“New Zealand will only truly feel like it returns to normal when there is a certain level of normality in the rest of the world, too,” the Prime Minister said at her first post-cabinet press conference of the year.
“Our team of five million worked too hard last year for us to risk any of the gains we have made. Health gains that see us going about our daily lives pretty much as normal, and saw the economy bounce back strongly from the initial shock.”
“We need to remain unified, we showed last year how good we are at that and that’s exactly what we intend and need to do for 2021.”
In a parallel universe back in old Blighty the jobless rate shot up once again, rising by 202,000 in three months.
Experts have warned that the UK could see 50,000 more deaths and it is clear, in spite of an advanced vaccine roll-out, that many more months of hardship are yet to come.
If only handshakes in hospitals had been strong, determined leadership, we might have been in a very different place.
Related: In Pictures: A year of coronavirus