I was like Donald Trump, hoping the virus would just go away

I gave more weight to information that suggested optimistic scenarios than to anything that pointed to a second wave, writes John Rentoul

Saturday 10 October 2020 21:37
Donald Trump, on the White House balcony
Donald Trump, on the White House balcony

I have a confession to make. I fell into the obvious trap of confusing what I wanted to happen with what would happen. So when in May the UK death toll from coronavirus dwindled, and no more people were dying than would be expected in a normal year, I wanted to assume that it was over.  

Therefore I gave more weight to information that suggested it might be true than to anything that pointed the other way. There were studies suggesting that immunity to the disease was more widespread than we thought, and that effective herd immunity might be achieved at low levels of reported exposure.  

All through the summer, the dire warnings of a second wave seemed at odds with low levels of prevalence in random surveys of the whole population. Given the huge costs of closing down society, it seemed right to open up while maintaining basic precautions, and for a long time it seemed that the level of the virus was staying low. It was possible to think that basically nobody had it in Britain throughout June, July and August. As cases started to rise in August, I was eager to ascribe this to more testing being carried out – the rise was really the by-product of good news, it was possible to tell myself, which was that the capacity of NHS Test and Trace was increasing.

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