The UK saw its first reported cases at the end of January, by which time the virus was already spreading around the world. But it was not until the middle of March that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson “advised” people to avoid non-essential travel and socialising, and only on 23 March did he order the country into lockdown. The slow UK response came in for widespread criticism from public health experts.

In the US, President Donald Trump has overseen a chaotic response. The country has had a dire shortage of testing kits, so its government does not know how many people have had the disease. President Trump also repeatedly downplayed the dangers of the disease – although despite what you may have read he did not (quite) call it a hoax. He also incorrectly compared it to seasonal flu, and falsely claimed the US response was more comprehensive than any other country's.

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How did two of the most advanced countries in the world, with technology and expertise to spare, fail to recognise the crisis as it unfolded? A final answer will only come with hindsight and public inquiries, but there are many known psychological processes that cause individuals and organisations to miss the signs of a coming emergency – even when it is staring them in the face.
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