Yet, as the focus shifts to the next phase of the vaccine rollout, lessons can be learned from the foot-and-mouth epidemic that broke out 20 years ago.
Devastating at the time for farmers as livestock was destroyed, and the countryside shut, the toll – both financial and personal – was significant and some scars linger to this day.
But farming did recover and the UK agricultural industry today is the world-leader when it comes to animal welfare standards and biosecurity – reforms reflected by the public’s appreciation for Yorkshire and British produce.
And this approach needs to be applied to Covid and the need, as the economy begins to reopen, to maintain public health vigilance so future outbreaks can be contained.
Just as the agricultural community has managed to contain sporadic disease outbreaks in the past two decades, Britain needs to maintain PPE stockpiles, access to vaccines and so on.
That is why the typically thoughtful comments of Lord Haskins, Tony Blair’s rural tsar at the time of foot-and-mouth, are so prescient this weekend. The East Yorkshire farmer says the response to the 2001 tragedy was too centralised and could, potentially, have been curtailed sooner with local expertise.
It’s the same now as lessons are learned from the current crisis. Make sure local leaders have the powers and resources that they need so they don’t have to wait for Whitehall to act. By then, it can be too late – as both foot-and-mouth, and now Covid, have shown.
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