Sunday Blog 7: March 22 2020

The Government

If you watch a press conference with ministers and experts, you are easily left with the impression that mostly they know what they are doing. On the other hand a news feature which casts a wider net to test the government’s assertions,  often leads to the conclusion that they may  not. The truth is probably somewhere in between. I believe the moment for one party leadership has passed and we need a much broader talent pool in government, as my last post laid out.

What is very clear to me is that there was undue delay in putting into effect social distancing and other measures which has increased the risk of a meltdown by a margin. The potential challenge to the NHS was far too low on the list in early modelling, which relied heavily on pre-cooked scenarios and turned a blind eye to what was going on at the front line. The West is nowhere near as efficient as Asia in this whole crisis.

The People

Except for a small minority of the old who can remember what it was like in the war and in the post war recovery period (which took longer in the UK than in all the countries we had defeated; here food rationing did not end until 1952 for example) nobody has before experienced a profound disruption to the structure of everyday life, not for the better, but for the worse. Most are coping well. A multitude of healthcare and other essential workers are rising to the life and death demand on their services with dedication and heroism on a par to the armed services in war. The rest of us are trying to evoke the spirit of optimism and defiance which became a legend during the Blitz. Then the killer fell from the sky, brought over by enemy bombers and later missiles. Now the killer steels silently upon you, brought there by your dearest friend or family. A very different experience altogether.

The Deniers and Hoarders

People who defy advice to keep up social distancing, which is far less demanding than social isolation, are plain selfish and also very stupid. They not only put themselves at risk, but, so much more important, they put others at risk too. They become the ally of the contagion and help it spread. They cost lives.

Those who panic buy toilet paper or hoard food supplies beyond their immediate needs are certainly selfish, but at the heart of it are driven by fear. In an age of plenty, there is an irrational fear of running out. Perhaps it is easier to deal with the fear of shortages, than it is to deal with the fear of catching the virus. The irony is that by jostling in queues and crowded supermarkets, they increase the risk of catching the virus themselves. Surely a cupboard full of pasta and toilet paper cannot be worth a life.


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