HEADLINES around the world are asking what went so wrong in Britain's coronavirus response after its death toll surpassed 30,000 – higher than any other country in Europe.
The strategy pursued by Boris Johnson's government has been blamed for making the UK the "problem child of Europe" and described as the "biggest failure in a generation".
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Britain's death toll this week surpassed that of Italy, once the global epicentre of the virus, and now stands at 30,076.
The only country in the world to have lost more people is the United States, whose population is five times the size.
Among the reasons cited for the failure are the late decision by the government to put the country in lockdown, a lack of people being tested for the virus, and a shortage of PPE among medical staff as well as the wider public.
In Germany, where the death toll stands at just 7,275, a headline published by popular magazine Focus read: "How Britain became Europe's problem child in the corona crisis."
Accusing the government of "underestimating" the pandemic, the article read: "A few weeks ago, Great Britain was considered to be a country in which the coronavirus only appeared to be spreading tentatively.
"Politicians already patted each other on the shoulder. But that quickly prove to be a mistake."
In Australia, which has seen only 97 deaths so far, the government closed the country's borders before significant numbers of cases were seen, and critics are now saying Britain should have done the same.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Martin McKee, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as saying: "The countries that moved fast have curtailed the epidemic. The countries that delayed have not. It's as simple as that."
It added that inadequate testing in the UK had meant the extent of the virus's spread did "not become obvious until hospitals started to fill with seriously ill patients".
The criticism has come not just from the countries that have had more success containing the virus, but even from those with higher tolls of their own.
An article in US magazine the New Yorker read: "Even as the virus tore through Northern Italy, and the British authorities had a chance to see, at relatively close quarters, what covid-19 could do to a prosperous European society, they dithered."
It also criticised the government for its initial strategy of pursuing "herd immunity" among the population, as well as mixed messaging on the concept.
In Italy, a headline in daily newspaper La Repubblica read: "From herd immunity to mask delays: All the errors of the Johnson government".
The paper also published a letter from an Italian living in London that read: "I begin to think that the British government is trying to make me feel at home, giving me the familiar show of incompetence to which we Italians have been used to for so long.
"In theory we had a few weeks ahead of Italy, but instead of gearing up, perhaps copying from the Germans, the government first did nothing, then tried to run for cover."
Today also saw the death toll for the whole of Europe pass 150,000, while the toll for the world now stands at at least 266,000.
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