Boris Johnson insists that Downing Street is learning lessons from the UK and around the world as it adapts its response to the coronavirus crisis. However, in the absence of an inquiry into the initial handling of the pandemic, critics warn that there is little independent oversight of the government.

Some scientists believe that imposing the lockdown one week earlier could have halved the UK’s death toll, which is the highest in Europe. The initial response to the outbreak was hampered by a shortage of ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE). A lack of testing capacity led to contact tracing being abandoned in March. With hindsight, the government’s scientific and medical advisers accept that it should have continued.

Another failure was in protecting care homes. Despite ministers’ claims to have put a “protective ring” around them “at the start”, it happened only after painful lessons had been learnt. A tragedy unfolded as homes struggled to cope with patients discharged from hospitals, and without adequate PPE or testing for staff and residents.

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