Lock. Down. Now.

Boris Johnon's complacency will cost 000s of lives

Let’s start with some pure mathematics, courtesy of Professor Julia Steinberger at Leeds University. The graph above shows that, until it imposed a compulsory lockdown — arresting people who needlessly left their homes — Italy’s coronavirus outbreak was growing exponentially.

Yesterday Italy saw 793 people die of the disease. Without the lockdown (see the light green line above) it would have been 4,000 — in a single day. That is where the UK is heading.

Fortunately, despite more than two weeks of dither and delay, there is still time to limit this catastrophe. That’s why, yesterday, some of the most eminent professors of epidemiology and public heath called on the government to impose an immediate Italian style lockdown, with movement restrictions within and between areas most severely affected.

Yet Boris Johnson is still prevaricating. And to their discredit no official opposition party has yet gone beyond calls for people to heed his advice.

In case it’s not obvious, people are not heeding the advice. They are going to the beach, or hanging out in parks, and of course standing in massive queues at supermarkets.

I have a hunch that the repeated opinion polls showing around half of Brits approve of the way Johnson is handling the crisis simply reflect the fact that he has not so far ordered them to do anything different.

When every NHS ventilator is occupied and medics are having to take life and death decisions over our loved ones — leaving the frail, and those with co-morbidities to die, as in Italy — we’ll see where the approval rating is then.

Revelations by Alex Wickham show there is deep disquiet even inside the cabinet at the complacent way politics have been “outsourced” to senior public health officials who may or may not know what they are doing. There will be the “mother of all public inquiries” after this, into Johnson’s refusal to get ahead of the crisis.

We need two decisions today: an immediate lockdown in the most affected areas— so everything closes and you only leave your house for essential things. And for the self-employed to be included in the £2,500 a month income scheme.