Covid-19 news: Earlier lockdown in England would have ‘saved lives

covid-19 uk

Covid-19 news: Earlier lockdown in England would have ‘saved lives

Latest coronavirus news as of 5 pm on 2 November

Earlier lockdown would have saved thousands of lives, says UK science adviser

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has announced plans to impose a nationwide lockdown across England, following growing pressure from public health experts and the government’s scientific advisers. Johnson told MPs today that without the new lockdown, the number of covid-19 deaths would be twice as high as the first wave. At a press conference on Saturday, he presented slides showing that the NHS would be overwhelmed by December without the new restrictions, and today he told MPs that the healthcare system faces an “existential threat.” The new restrictions, due to start on Thursday, are expected to pass when MPs vote on Wednesday, and will last for at least four weeks.

More than a month ago the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) recommended that the UK government impose a two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown in England while keeping schools open. The government decided not to follow the advice, which was presented at a meeting on 21 September. SAGE member Andrew Hayward at University College London today said thousands of lives would have been saved if a lockdown had been introduced earlier. “We can’t turn back the clock. But I think if we had chosen a two-week circuit-break at that time we would definitely have saved thousands of lives,” Hayward told BBC Radio 4. “Early action is essential, and waiting to see if less intense measures are going to work is really quite a dangerous way of doing things,” he said. “We have repeatedly underestimated covid and done too little too late, really, to control the virus and save both lives and livelihoods.”

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First minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has said he is concerned about people crossing into Wales from England to escape the lockdown restrictions, due to come into force in England later this week. “It’s very important Wales doesn’t become an escape for people trying to get round the new tighter restrictions being introduced in England,” Drakeford said on BBC Radio Wales today. A lockdown in Wales, which began on 23 October, is due to end in a week’s time, shortly after England goes into lockdown.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is quarantining after a person he had been in contact with tested positive for the coronavirus. “I am well and without symptoms but will self-quarantine over the coming days, in line with WHO protocols and work from home,” Ghebreyesus tweeted yesterday, adding “it is critically important that we all comply with health guidance.”

US president Donald Trump suggested he would fire senior health adviser Anthony Fauci after the US presidential election. In response to calls to “fire Fauci” from crowds at a rally in Florida yesterday, Trump said: “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election. I appreciate the advice.”

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Inspired by the British attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto a year before, on Dec. 7, 1941, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto directed six Japanese aircraft carriers to launch an air raid against the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor where they would sink six and damage three battleships, and damage several light cruisers and destroyers, all at a cost of only twenty-nine aircraft. Naval vessels are prohibitively expensive, none more so than capital ships like battleships. In economic terms, this was probably the most lopsided battle in human history.

Even as the smoke was clearing, the world was coming to realize that the reign of the battleship was over. Never again would the pinnacle of naval warfare be one side’s fleet maneuvering to “cross the T” of the enemy’s fleet (as the British Grand Fleet did twice against the German High Seas Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in the Great War). From that day forward, battleships were effectively relegated to be floating artillery in support of amphibious assaults on beaches.

Pearl Harbor was not the first great paradigm shift in warfare. Examples abound, from the use of stirrups by Mongol cavalry to the English longbow at Agincourt, from the introduction of steam-powered ships in the early 1800’s (our nuclear-powered ships today are powered by steam) to the first ship sunk by a cruise missile in the Falklands War. The world’s militaries have just witnessed another such shift.

The tank has ruled the battlefield for 102 years, from the last great battle of WWI in 1918 until 2020, but no longer. The U.S. Army is estimated to have just under 6300 tanks, all of which have just been made obsolete. This is one example of what now rules the battlefield:

The Turkish-made drone used by Azerbaijani forces to devastating effect on Armenian armor (Islamic World News)

The cost of that Turkish-made unmanned drone is about $5M USD. The cost of the newest version of the venerable M1 Abrams main battle tank is about $20M USD, not counting the cost of the lives of the soldiers inside. And if the graphic above is any indication, each drone can kill two tanks. Per mission.

Research by Forbes indicates that Armenian losses currently include nearly 200 armored vehicles and over 300 soft-skinned vehicles, all destroyed by unmanned drones. To be sure, the tanks destroyed by the drones were relatively geriatric Soviet-era T-72’s, but the top armor of tanks is always the weakest — and that’s where the drones’ missiles always strike.

We also know that Turkey has used its drone force to destroy dozens of tanks and other armored vehicles and artillery in northern Syria, and has positioned itself as one of the world’s major producers of armed drones and unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV’s).

Armenia is also quickly developing combat drones of its own (Horizon Weekly)

Just as bomber pilot Billy Mitchell demonstrated in 1921 that battleships were too vulnerable to air attack, forward-thinking military leaders have known for years that the battlefield utility of the tank was drawing to an end. Of course there are deniers who, in the words of Mark Twain, claim that “the report of the death of the tank has been greatly exaggerated,” but the evidence says otherwise. To the drone operator, a tank is a big, slow-moving target easily seen in infrared, and throughout all military history, whoever holds the high ground has a big advantage.

A Russian-made T-72 tank destroyed by an American drone in Syria (Fighter Jets World)

The current war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is in fact a continuation of an on-off conflict that has continued since the late 1980’s. What is new is the technology at use, and how both nations are being used as proxies: Armenia is a Russian ally (though Russia is selling advanced munitions to both sides) and Azerbaijan is building close ties to Turkey. Most students of Asian history know that Russia, desirous of the Bosporus Strait that allows travel between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, has long wanted to establish control over Turkey. Even twenty years ago, one would think that in such a proxy war, it would be no contest, that whoever mighty Russia backed against Turkey would win in short order. But Azerbaijan’s sustained military successes enabled by Turkish drones may well soon bring Armenia to the bargaining table.

Nor is this the only proxy conflict between Russia and Turkey. Just this week a cease-fire was signed between the warring sides of the Libyan civil war. The Turks had been supporting the government, whereas the Russians had been supporting the rebels. Turkey and Russia are also facing off against each other in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

But in any case, in all three conflicts, the unmanned combat drone is playing a major — and perhaps even a decisive — role by economically providing crucial reconnaissance and tank-busting firepower. And right now, Turkey seems to hold the advantage of the high ground.

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