Did COVID-19 Just Have Its Super Saturday in the UK?

A perfect day of super-spreading for the virus

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

The 21st March 2020 will become a date time stamped in the history books, for it was the day COVID-19 had it’s Super Saturday.

This was the date the UK effectively gave COVID-19 it’s glory shot. It won’t show itself for a week or so — but it will — and the UK will regret the decisions it didn’t make.

History will record the 21st March 2020 as a glorious Saturday.
A day when the weather was dry, the sky a beautiful blue spoiled only by a brisk breeze to take the edge of the sun’s spring rays.

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak had the night before brought more financial support to the economy. Employers and employees let out a collective sigh of relief as wages received protection, a level of support never seen before in the UK.

The last act from the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was to announce the closure of all pubs, restaurants and clubs. A vain attempt to further reduce social interactions and stop the spread of COVID-19.

Earlier in the week, Boris had blurted out his belief that the country could turn the tide against COVID-19 and send it packing. The time frame he referenced was 12 weeks.

It all combined to make Saturday the 21st March the perfect day for a super-spreader event.

COVID-19 and its Super Saturday

After all the ups and downs of the daily press conferences, the vibe on that Friday night seemed to be one of victory. The uninformed started to believe COVID-19 was a storm in a teacup.

In homes up and down the country, three months became three weeks. A game of Chinese whispers no less.

With all this in mind, the British public pondered the delights of the weather forecast that Friday night. A lovely spring Saturday beckoned, and so the masses, with confidence from Boris and the chancellor, all said let’s go out on Saturday.

And out they went, in their masses.

The National Trust had more visitors than ever, of people exploring their grounds and getting outside. Seaside towns were swamped with visitors. Walkers travelled to national parks, believing they could socially distance themselves by hill climbing. North Wales witnessed a packed day with hundreds walking up Mount Snowdon.

The outcome.

Well, COVID-19 just had its Super Saturday.

The UK’s over-confident approach

People in the UK have been blinded by the over-confidence of its Prime Minister. Let alone, the staggering amount of misinformation circulating regarding COVID-19.

From those who fail to grasp the impact of exponential growth or those who will try and kid you it’s just another flu bug. Then you get those ‘experts’ who seize on current death rates and tell you they’re not that bad.

Some believe being outside means they can’t catch the virus.

Has anyone seen what happens to the water droplets which explode from your mouth and nose when you sneeze?

Social distancing means more than not touching each other or contaminated surfaces. Social distancing means distancing yourself from others and the best way to do that is to stay at home.

The UK’s misplaced confidence meant the 21st March became a super-spreader day. A day when the disease infected masses, potentially creating the squeeze on beds the NHS wanted to avoid.

Three weeks from COVID-19 Hell

Some might criticise this sub-heading, but I’m scared. I’m dreading where we will be in three weeks.

For starters, the data of recorded deaths put the UK on a path of fatalities between Italy and Spain. And this is now — not in three weeks — today.
We are only behind Italy because they had their first patient before we did in the UK. The time difference was about two weeks. If you look at Italy two weeks ago, they had two hundred and thirty-three deaths, the same we had on the 20th of March.

It means, even with the measures the government has introduced, we are going to see more and more cases.

And with it, more deaths.

Italy has over 5,000 dead, and they are two weeks ahead. They have also been in lockdown, proper lockdown. Not some fancy social distancing measures, no, the Italians are in lockdown.

In the UK, a lockdown was delayed due to the fear of social unrest. So instead, the UK government wanted our ‘best endeavours’.

All of this has and will compound the exponential growth we are seeing. This video below explains how just one person can infect 59,000 others.

The spread of the disease is calculated by the much-discussed R number, the reproduction number. This calculation formalises the average people the virus spreads to from someone infected.

The whole purpose of social distancing, lockdowns and the like should be to reduce the R number. Get this below 1 and we are reducing the spread, any number greater than 1 means the virus is spreading further.

Given the levels of social contact witnessed in the UK on Saturday 21st March, I dread to think what the reproduction number might have been. Hence, my conclusion that COVID-19 had its Super Saturday.

Final Thoughts

The UK government has belated changed its approach.

Even with more robust measures than the UK, Italy and Spain are in a worse position. Too many people do not understand the consequences of their actions.

The UK population had too much confidence. There has been too much bravado and a false sense of we’ll be okay. It seemingly flows from the government and the Prime Minister and the mixed messages they have been giving out.

Yes, we need strong, positive leadership. It’s the essence of leadership and one Boris is desperate to show.

But this must be tempered.

We also need a sense of the seriousness of the situation the country finds itself in. The Prime Minister must create a greater awareness of what lies ahead in the days and weeks for we are all going to feel pain most of us have never experienced.

He alluded to it in his press conference on Monday 16th March. He said we are all going to suffer much loss over the coming weeks. Sombre and as bleak as this message was, it was and does reflect what is coming to the UK — and that was before Super Saturday.

As it is, I believe we will exceed Italy and Spain with fatalities when the virus has finished its deadly work. The impact it will have on the NHS is likely to be devastating and we should have done more sooner.

A lockdown might give us a fighting chance, but make no mistake, after COVID-19’s super Saturday, things might never be the same again.

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