It is in the nature of governments, especially in parliamentary democracies, to do nothing when urgent action is required and, in corollary, to intervene with excessive zeal when there is no need. The present UK government, in its response to the coronavirus crisis, has contrived to commit both errors simultaneously.

In the early stages of the pandemic there was a bullish aura of British exceptionalism. Britain would follow a different strategy from those being unveiled by other countries. Face masks were deemed to be of doubtful efficacy and testing was an academic indulgence of little practical use in containing the virus: such devices were all very well for “johnny foreigner”, but Britons would follow a more robust strategy.