Cheltenham reveals first case of coronavirus, but Tories insist race festival should proceed – bringing 250,000 people into close proximity
Boris Johnson, via Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, has insisted that the Cheltenham Festival must go ahead, in spite of the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the town.
The racing event – the largest spring gathering in Europe – will bring together around a quarter of a million people over the course of its four days, starting tomorrow.
In 2001, the event was cancelled to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease among horses.
As the Tories insist on ploughing ahead, a Twitter thread by an Italian epidemiologist translating an ICU medic’s account of the scale and severity of the horror in Italy – which has just announced a national lockdown – gives a chilling glimpse at what might be in store for the UK, which is only around 12 days behind Italy in its number of COVID-19 cases and rate of spread of the disease.
Silvia Stringhini’s 20-tweet thread, which translates the account of Italian ICU doctor Daniele Macchini, starts in the ‘calm before the storm’ as Macchinie’s hospital was emptied of other types of patient in readiness – and goes on to describe:
- medics unable to go home for fear of infecting their families – and exhausted staff becoming ill themselves
- full patient boards marked in red for severe danger to life from ‘bilateral interstitial pneumonia’
- surgical theatres converted to makeshift intensive care wards as the hospital struggles to cope
- patient after patient dying and growing numbers of others showing signs of the same outcome
- the inadequacy of the supply of ventilators to cope with the numbers needing them
The account – whose title translates as “With our actions we influence the lives and deaths of many” – then challenges the actions of authorities more concerned with avoiding panic than with genuinely informing the public how people can protect themselves and others:
Cheltenham Festival could be closed two decades ago to prevent a disease spreading among horses, but the Tories want it to stay open now – when information like Daniele Macchini’s is only a click away – potentially providing the virus with hundreds of thousands of vectors to accelerate its spread in the UK.
The Tories’ consistent cuts to and fragmentation of the NHS look set to come home to roost, with the huge bed reductions, ward closures and staff cuts and shortages of the last decade weakening the ability of the NHS to cope with a pandemic.
And Boris Johnson told ITV’s This Morning last week that one of the theories being considered by his government was to simply let the disease run rampant and ‘take it on the chin’:
When the full cost of this pandemic becomes known, Johnson and others responsible for such recklessness – when their primary duty is to protect – must be held to account.
And allowed nowhere near power ever again.
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