Twenty months into Covid-19, the toll of excess deaths per capita is converging at surprisingly similar levels across large parts of Europe and the Western world.
The UK undoubtedly stumbled badly into the pandemic, with the wrong contingency plan, under the baneful watch of a Sage committee that thought it knew better than the Koreans or the Taiwanese. There was a shockingly insolent level of self-gratulation as the first wave ripped through.
By all means let us call this “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”.
Heads should have rolled when it became clear that the NHS itself was seeding the disease among the most vulnerable by discharging untested patients from hospitals into care homes – like hurling plague-ridden bodies over the wall at the Siege of Caffa, in the words of one cardiologist.
But are the health and science committees right in concluding that this country suffered a “significantly worse” outcome than global peers? A long list of countries failed to heed the lessons of east Asia and had their own comparable failures, suffering the same shortcomings in test-and-trace, or similar ravages in care homes.
A false narrative is taking hold that the UK has been an egregious outlier of the pandemic. This has become entangled with Brexit and visceral hostility to Boris Johnson’s Government in part of the British media, picked up in turn and amplified by the global journalistic establishment.
It is almost an article of faith in these circles that the UK is governed by virus-denying, climate-denying, Trumpian-Bolsonaro populists. Events are bent mercilessly to fit this mental and ideological frame.
A study by France Stratégie, an agency of the French state, concluded that France, the UK, and Belgium, are among the few countries that have reported deaths accurately, or arguably even over-reported, as doctors in doubt put Covid on death certificates.
It found that France has declared 105pc of excess deaths, the UK (97), Germany (85), Canada (82), Austria (80), the US (72), the Netherlands (69), Spain (67), Italy (62), Portugal (56), Poland (49), Mexico (43), Romania (37), and Russia (18). So be careful of the Worldometer.