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At the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, insisted that the UK was “extremely well prepared” for the crisis to come. Yet faced with the reality of a new and fast-spreading coronavirus, a human catastrophe resulted. Last March, Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, remarked soberly that limiting British deaths to 20,000 would be a “good outcome”. At the time, this assessment stunned many. But it has proved an underestimate. Britain has now suffered over 100,000 recorded deaths from Covid-19, the highest toll in Europe and one of the highest per capita death rates in the world. In this special issue, we reflect on the meaning of this moment of national mourning. As the historian Richard J Evans observes in his essay on page 25, the Covid death toll is “more British civilians than died in both world wars combined”. Some will say that this outcome was inevitable – or at least excusable. The UK is a densely populated country and an international ... Full story

27 January