David Oliver: Covid-19—recriminations and political point scoring must waitBMJ 2020; 368 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1153 (Published 25 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m1153
All rapid responses
David Oliver is right.
There is much to learn from the current COVID-19 outbreak, and the time for post-mortems and recriminations will come later.(1)
But come they must.
While there clearly are interactions between natural and man-made disasters (2), we must seek out ways of avoiding any temptation to simplistically bundle natural disasters together with - military, financial, political and other - human-created disasters. This is because…
a) the former will, no matter what, come at us periodically, and we really should be investing in good quality horizon scanning and planning properly for them
b) the latter could be eradicated, or their effects at least minimised, if mankind and its leaders were somehow to find the necessary strength of purpose and develop sufficient resolve to resist the temptation to allow these things to happen. Maybe that is a pipe dream, but the chance to prevent or mitigate some of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that come our way remains within our own gift, however much we try to deny that reality or blame them on “human nature.”
Reputedly, Napoléon Bonaparte’s standing order to his Marshals was “always march towards the sound of gunfire”. Like the marshals, we must seek out the elephants in the room and start planning for how to deal with them.
The problems that left us open to the risk of a worldwide pandemic one day taking grip have existed for years, and maybe a time has come in the historical continuum to start to fix things. Somehow we really must collectively learn some important lessons - for example, starting to apportion a little greater value to the views and opinions of the likes of committed health and care workers and the evidence-led academic community instead of habitually and uncritically prioritising the advice emerging from the world of high finance might be in everyone's best interests and represent a helpful start.
Like everywhere else globally, the UK must never ever again be left as ill-prepared for a natural disaster such as COVID-19. Mindful of Bertrand Russell’s advice - “the only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation” - we must learn to cooperate - both within the nation and internationally - in a purposeful way, and foster the willpower to sustain that cooperation.
Otherwise, we as a species will have learned nothing of lasting importance from COVID-19.
And that would truly be a disaster of the highest order.
(1) Cladi L, Green S. “To defeat COVID-19, the global community must work together. ” Jandoli Institute - St. Bonaventure University, NY 14778. USA. 10 April, 2020. https://jandoli.net/2020/04/10/to-defeat-covid-19-the-global-community-m...
(2) Kron W. “Natural catastrophe or man-made disaster?” Munich Re. 19 July 2016 https://www.munichre.com/topics-online/en/climate-change-and-natural-dis...
Competing interests: No competing interests