LONDON — Back in March, the mood in the United Kingdom was one of terrified simplicity.
Having watched hospitals and morgues become overwhelmed in northern Italy, almost everyone supported the drastic, nationwide lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Now — after a summer in which Johnson’s government has been accused of incompetence, negligence and hypocrisy — efforts to contain a second spike are mired in chaos.
What experts call “pandemic fatigue” is beginning to set in across the continent. But few places display greater levels of it than Britain, where Johnson’s critics accuse him of burning much of the goodwill he enjoyed in spring — thanks to months of blunders and double standards.
Johnson is expected to announce a tiered system of lockdown measures later on Monday to deal with localized spikes in infections, which will see some areas returning to the kind of restrictions seen in March.
Cases were rising so quickly that three emergency hospitals in the northern English cities of Manchester and Sunderland, and the town of Harrogate, have been told to get ready for a new wave of admissions, Professor Stephen Powis, the head of the publicly funded National Health Service for England, said at a press conference on Monday.
The municipal leaders of Liverpool, in the north-west of England, said in a statement Sunday night that the city region had been chosen to enter tier 3, containing the strictest measures such as closing pubs and bars — but no official announcement has yet been made and locals simply have to wait for some certainty. Liverpool has almost 600 cases per 100,000 people and is counting nearly 3,000 positive cases per week, up from 89 a week in September.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of nearby Greater Manchester, a region with 2.8 million people, paraphrased William Shakespeare last week by warning that “this could be a winter of dangerous discontent.”
Most deaths in Europe
Britain has the most coronavirus deaths in Europe, with at least 42,000, and one of the highest deaths-per-capita figures in the world. Public confidence in his handling of Covid-19 has crashed from 72 to 31 percent — the lowest of any country tracked by polling company YouGov.
Anyone who is exposed to a confirmed Covid-19 carrier in Britain must isolate for 14 days. But a study led by King’s College London found that just 10.9 percent of these people have been doing so, and only 18.2 percent have been self-isolating after developing symptoms themselves.
The study said this was because people feared losing income or had to care for a family member.
This isn’t a case of people wanting “to go down the pub and have a good time,” according to Tim Colbourn, an associate professor of global health epidemiology and evaluation at University College London. “It’s because of economic necessity, family…