A Scottish public health expert has questioned why poorer countries have managed the coronavirus outbreak better than some of the richest – countries like the UK and the USA.
Holyrood health advisor Devi Sridhar told LBC’s James O’Brien that despite having smaller healthcare budgets, countries like Senegal and Vietnam had managed to contain the spread of Covid-19 better than rich ones.
‘The UK is one of the richest countries in the world and if we look at the countries that have built the capacity, these are countries like Senegal, Vietnam, Rowanda,’ she said.
‘I think the big lesson, if you look cross-country is political will and a clear strategy from the start.’
Sridhar claimed governments that were ‘consumed with evidence’ about the virus rather than responding to it quickly let it spread while slamming the UK government over it decision to stop community testing in March.
‘In a sense,’ she said, ‘you have to move before you have exact evidence but if you’re consumed with evidence and running around in circles about it then the outbreak moves on and the virus spreads, often in a worse position.’
Claiming it was a ‘nightmare’ watching the virus spread globally, she said it was also a surprise to see the UK and USA struggle to cope with the outbreak.
She said: ‘What was unpredictable were the two countries that would struggle would be the UK and the US, given these are the two that are seen as the exemplars of preparedness.’
When O’Brien asked whether ministers were like ‘headless chickens’ when Covid-19 first arrived in the UK, Sridhar said that it was actually a misunderstanding of the strain and mixed government messaging that was behind the slow response.
The chair of global public health at Edinburgh University said it would be ‘wrong’ of any government to pursue a ‘herd immunity’ approach without a vaccine.
She said: ‘To try herd immunity without a vaccine and without a treatment than a lot of people will die, largely elderly people and those who are vulnerable and that’s a moral decision that governments need to take.
‘I personally this it is very wrong.’