Discovery of virus in Spanish water sample taken LAST year turns prevailing narrative of virus origin on its head – and means disease may have run rampant in UK for a year before Tories took action, with fragmented and privatised NHS unable to help recognise new pathogen
Spanish scientists at the Spanish Society for Public Health and Sanitary Administration say they have found traces of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in a waste-water sample dating back to March 2019.
The finding was in a single sample and the SSPH is hoping to find other samples to confirm it, but the news turns on its head the original narrative of the virus emerging in China last autumn and spreading to Europe – adding to the doubts raised by the definitely-confirmed presence of COVID-19 in France very soon afterward.
And it adds to the likelihood that the Tories allowed the virus to run rampant in the UK for up to a year before finally taking action in late March.
In December last year, newspapers reported on a raised winter-season mortality rate in the UK of around 800 additional deaths a week compared to the 5-year average, as a chart published by the Daily Mail showed:
While the rate seems to have settled at the end of the year – as the real first peak of infection burned out? – the Mail also reported at the same time that intensive care admissions for pneumonia were three times higher than normal.
If the virus was present in Spain in March last year or earlier, then with the high levels of travel between Spain and the UK it’s extremely improbable that it would not have rapidly arrived in the UK, even assuming it was not already here.
The latest evidence suggests that the Department of Health and Social Care and its agency Public Health England failed to recognise the presence of a new disease for months – and the starved, fragmented and privatised NHS was unable to see the big picture well enough to raise a warning flag.
The government’s failures may have cost far more than the 60,000 or so needless deaths that experts believe Boris Johnson’s delays have caused.
In the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50-100 million people, the first wave of the pandemic was far less deadly than the later waves. It may be that the raised mortality and ICU admission rates last autumn were the first or second wave of the UK epidemic – and that the massive deaths seen this year have been a second or third.
Based on the available evidence, it appears that the UK government took no steps to investigate the elevated death toll and ICU admissions last year and, in failing to investigate, it allowed a new pathogen to spread unchecked for a year or more before finally taking action – killing far more people than even the damning picture of events this year.
The only potential silver lining in this scenario is that it would mean that if the disease has been prevalent in this country for a year or more longer than thought, then far more people are likely to have been infected and the UK – at huge cost incurred by Tory cuts and incompetence – is closer to the end of the pandemic than anyone thought.
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