Back Peddling

The contagion forges ahead. Not the virus but that sinking feeling of whoops.

When all the restrictions and lockdowns were hurriedly ushered in, the knee-jerking was not based on any holistic facts that aggregated with any degree of comfort

Even now – at the peak if we are to accept this assessment from the UK Government – the death toll is below 50,000. That’s 0.077% of the population. It’s half that if you accept official UK figures.

Coronavirus was always going to be a substantial threat to a minimal percentage of our population and a minimal threat to the substantial majority. Translating this understanding into policy would have rendered a much more consolidated approach. It might even have qualified as a strategy.

We’re now contemplating lifting restrictions on the basis of as much evidence as when we imposed them. And that is on not a lot.

6 weeks ago, when we were economically comfortable, the fear of illness and death had consumed us, and we had tipped the scales accordingly. Now, we’re all sitting at home, safe in isolation, and the fear of economic collapse and poverty is monopolising our thoughts. Hey presto, we’re going to tip them back again.

You may afford yourself a nervous guffaw to learn that there is a Policy Profession within the UK Civil Service. Yes, a whole specialism that extends throughout government departments and ensures that work is undertaken to the nth degree in order to identify needs, gather information, draft, consult and review for every process and procedure

Not particularly good at it, are they?

Not that it all matters anyway. This bug was always going to spread widely. The key was to shield the vulnerable until a vaccine or effective treatment was discovered. The flu would be rampant were it not for the fact that we have a vaccine. In fact, it is still decidedly prevalent. Every year thousands die and most of us have a week of feeling like death warmed up.

Yes, it appears to be the case that this bug affects the body differently. And that’s likely to mean that there will be a shift in the set of people that will be the most vulnerable. But it’s the lack of preventative and curative medicine that marks the dissimilarity in terms of impact. Consider where we might now be, had the Government focused its resources on shielding those who would have been vulnerable owing to this. On ramping up services for the elderly and sick in isolation and the focused and accelerated production of PPE.

It would have been a whole different ball game.

But, 3-2-1 and we’re back in the room. And have we undeniably reached the peak? Infection rates may have dropped, but that’s because we’ve all been inside gorging on cheesy puffs and nailing boxsets. It’s not dissimilar to the Home Secretary’s comments about the fall in shoplifting this week. We all had a good laugh about that one, but it cuts both ways. Have a guess what will happen when everyone starts going out again? And of course, the world’s countries are all dealing with this differently, so cross-border contagion will again be back on the table.

Countries that have relaxed restrictions – like Germany and New Zealand – have already witnessed re-infection. Once we roll back the rules, we just won’t see these figures being reported so closely. Wait for the spin-doctoring to kick off in earnest. There’s no doubt that Boris will remember Churchill’s statement about history:

‘History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.’

He’ll need a posse of scriptwriters working around the clock on that little number. At least he won’t need to attend to any ripostes from opposition politicians. They’re all either on furlough (aren’t they?) or virtue-signalling for Ramadan.

But for now, it will be time to back-pedal discreetly or more appropriately to be back peddling. Peddling the line that the disaster was averted through a great plan or that ‘the war has been won’.

While politicians are peddling furiously, we’ll all be pedalling furiously.

Just to get back to where we were 2 months ago.

unsplash-logokira cheng


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