News updates: Government adviser John Bell warns that speed of second wave has been underestimated
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In the light of Sir John Bell’s comment about how the second wave has arrived (see 9.20am), it is worth flagging up the last graph from the government’s coronavirus dashboard showing the pattern for new cases. It was only published at about 6.30pm yesterday, later than usual.
Good morning. Boris Johnson won his first vote on the internal market bill very easily last night, but the morning papers won’t bring him much comfort because several are focusing on the coronavirus testing crisis, with large numbers of people continuing to report that they cannot get a test.
I think what’s going wrong is the second wave. A month ago they had spare capacity in testing – significant spare capacity – but I think what has been underestimated was the speed at which the second wave would arrive, but also the pressure put on the system from children returning to school, and the testing demands associated with that, and people increasingly out and about.
So, I think they are definitely behind the curve in terms of getting the necessary tests for what we need today.
This will get worse because of course we haven’t hit winter yet – we haven’t all started to sniffle, get fevers, get colds, and that’s going to add additional confusion to the problem. The demand will go up. The real question is whether they can get supply in a position where it can outpace demand, and that’s the challenge at the moment.
Part of the problem here is that the government isn’t being as open as trusts would like about how big this problem is, how widespread it is, and how long it’s going to last. So, it’s difficult to get full information.
Governments, when they get operational problems like this, face a choice, which is do they try and politically communicate their way out of them – say, for example, ‘look how many million tests we’ve done’, or ‘we’re going to do a very ambitious moonshot next year’ – or do they calmly and soberly explain the appropriate detail of what’s going on, and in doing that help and support those organisations … who are trying to deal with these problems. And I suppose there’s a pretty clear view from our trust leaders that they really want rather less of the former and rather more of the latter.