As I have said repeatedly on these pages, Covid-19 has forced realignment of virtually every solitary aspect of our lives which now, on 20th July, bear little or no relation to how they looked on 20th February, just 5 months ago. Not since the Second World War has the country, as whole, had to adapt to a morass of new rules, regulations, suggestions, guidelines, mnemonics, edicts, orders, instructions, commands, mandates and decrees. You would sometimes be forgiven for thinking we do not, actually, live in a Western democracy and one of the freest countries on the planet.
Let’s be stark – the plethora of said rules has come between families at the end of their lives and forbidden grandparents from hugging their grandchildren. We have been ordered to stay at home, fined us for going out, stopped us working and put the brakes on education (at every level). It is surely only a matter of time (and not long either) when the full economic horrors will be laid bare and we will discover that an already fragile and brittle economy will all but collapse with untold consequences for years to come. We have already witnessed cataclysmic numbers of people on ‘furlough’, a concept that will end in October. Thousands of redundancies, familiar High Street stores closing virtually every day, planes grounded and pubs closing in freakishly high numbers. Inevitably, the Government will be forced to recoup some of these losses by inflicting upon us eyewatering tax increases and an inflation rate that will send us into a spin. There is already plenty evidence that a £25 rail ticket is now over £200.
Now, we have been told what to wear. On our faces indeed. A grotty, smelly cloth-thing MUST be worn when out in public or else…………………..
But what has caused this latest frenzy? Why have Scotland and England NOT agreed on this until very recently..? Why, in England, is it ‘law’ from 24th July and not last week when the decision was made? The scientific ‘evidence’ is poor. In March 2020, the World Health Organisation stated that, ‘…There is no evidence that wearing a mask (whether medical or other types) by healthy persons in the wider community setting, including universal community masking, can protect them from infection with respiratory viruses, including Covid-19′. That advice was echoed by England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty who has stated that whilst if someone was infected, they might reduce the spread of the disease by covering their faces, the wearing of a mask had almost no effect on reducing the risk of contracting the illness. The evidence is indeed weak, at best. But it is perplexing why our greatest medical and scientific minds seemed to have changed direction on this so quickly.
Like so many other aspects of this pandemic, there appears to be little consensus but great confusion and disparity. Why..??
The current Westminster government swept to power in mid-December 2019 – that’s still only 8 months ago. Their frailties and inexperience have been brutally exposed by this crisis and, one hopes, it is a matter on which they will be held to account on when matters ‘settle’ sufficiently for our ‘new normal’ to kick-in. But with the mire of issues that have already been exposed (too slow in entering lockdown, allowing mass gatherings like Cheltenham and football matches to proceed, no quarantine for those entering the country, a hopeless testing system et cetera), is this just another example of an administration floundering about and deciding that wielding their power and instilling fear will somehow afford them some kudos in their handling of it all?
We have already witnessed a startlingly disproportionate response to all this since March – not because it was necessarily the wrong thing to do – but because of the manner in which it was done. Being reactive and not proactive, if you like. Nobody is suggesting, least of all me that this has been an easy navigation for this (or any) Government. But leadership is all about taking and making decisions on the bad, in addition to the good, scenarios. In this sense, there has been a systemic failure.
There have also been many an eyebrow raised in terms of the figures (and glaring inconsistencies) among the different nations within the UK. It has been suggested, for example, that PHE (Public Health England), unlike the corresponding position in Scotland, preposterously include in their data anyone who dies that, at anytime, was diagnosed as having ‘Covid-19’. So a patient who tested for the disease but was successfully treated and subsequently discharged, will still be included in the ‘Covid-related’ deaths figures even if 3 months later they die of a heart attack or are run over by a bus. That appears utterly insane. Furthermore, medical findings are now starting to filter in suggesting that there may be a horrifying number of excess deaths not caused directly by coronavirus at all but by individuals not seeking treatment for ‘other’ issues such as heart attacks, strokes and cancer. And in no way is that meant to sound like I am apportioning blame upon those patients. It is misleading, to say the least.
The inexperienced government, with a cabinet of relative unknowns and who have no track record or pedigree and also who are headed by an individual who has not come out of this crisis well at all (cue understatement) are being ‘found out’. They have to maintain their authority by any means or civil unrest will surely follow. The latest method of them doing so is the maintenance of fear and alarm, on this occasion by promulgating we cannot enter a shop or a bus without a mask. Or else….
Don’t get me wrong. The virus is not a joke, or a hoax or some kind of illusion. But the attitude, response and numbers simply do not appear to add up. The hundreds of thousands of fatalities we were all scared to really contemplate has not materialised. The numbers that have succumbed to this awful disease are truly dreadful but by no stretch of the imagination are they all simply down to ‘Covid-19’. We have been subjected to house arrest yet the PM’s chief adviser broke this rule and went unpunished. As have thousands of others who have simply ignored advice ( q.v. Bournemouth beach, Soho and the various protest marches). Yet numbers have not significantly risen – in fact there have been signs that the virus is declining.
All opinion and, hopefully, an interesting debate at least. My worry is that all that has been implemented since March will change us so drastically it will be very very difficult to revert to how it was.