Monday 11 May 2020
What part of the word “alert” do politicians not understand? Would they prefer “watchful”, “vigilant”, “attentive”, or simply “on your toes”?
Yesterday evening, the Prime Minister gave a get-up-and-go speech to the country and by the end of it I felt things were moving. Here was someone who had been through the disease, admitted that he was uncertain what the future held, but was relying on me to be sensible and to follow certain rules.
The problem started at the beginning of lockdown, when the government introduced three connected phrases to make a slogan. Every minister, politician and bigwig used the slogan whenever they could. It went as follows:
Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives
This slogan has been judged as one of the most successful in modern political history.
I was never sure why we were protecting the NHS in 2020 when the country had done its best not to protect it for the past decade. However, the idea was a good one, the principle was fine, and most of the country went along with it. From these phrases, the NHS sacred cow was born.
The government has now changed the wording, and the slogan reads:
Stay Alert – Control the Virus – Save Lives
For some reason Scotland, at least their First Minister, is having trouble with this slogan and wants to keep the Scots still at home. That is fine, assuming she has been successful in the past, but so far Scotland has broken lockdown just as much as anywhere else in the United Kingdom. Sunbathers broke lockdown rules in Glasgow, 30 covidiots gathered for a boozy outdoor party in Lanarkshire, and Aberdeen has been in trouble as well.
I can only conclude that the problem is purely politics and an attempt by others to assert control. It is possible there is evidence of a condition we medics call aphasia. This is a communication disorder that does not impair intelligence but does get in the way of a patient’s ability to use or understand words. It is normally caused by a stroke or brain injury, occasionally by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, but I am fairly sure, in this case, such diagnoses do not apply.
My view of the Prime Minister’s words is different. He has, in part only, passed the ball to his people and asked us to be sensible. To me that does not seem too difficult, but there will be some who wish to be given chapter and verse. As soon as they have it, they will then set about seeing if they can circumvent the new regulation.
The naysayers, and there are plenty of those in the Opposition Parties, the ones who would even deny that today is Monday, somehow wished Boris Johnson to cover each little detail in his speech.
Life is returning to the streets around my apartment today, although only with the takeaway establishments. As I returned from my morning stagger-stumble, I saw two delivery lorries unloading, both at sandwich-selling businesses. I have not worked out who is going to eat the things, but that is a start at least.
As I went by, I greeted a woman in her early thirties who was hard at work stocking her shelves. I shouted through the open glass door as I stagger-stumbled past, “Are you open today?”
“We certainly are,” she shouted back, an enormous smile on her face. The woman was more than happy. Wherever she had been in lockdown, she was glad to have the chance of escape.
If you give Brits an inch, it seems they take a mile. Many have taken the Prime Minister’s words as meaning they can return to work and today’s trains were sadly crowded, although the intention was that the new era should begin on Wednesday. The Mirror newspaper took a frightening photograph of a train at North Acton station, as well as crowded roads. Social distancing was non-existent and face masks often lacking. Let’s look at the death rate in North London in three to four weeks’ time. If it rises, then today was the day it started.
The bit I do not understand is the discussion I hear around a 14-day period of quarantine for new arrivals to UK. That would be a very good way of completely killing off the airline industry. Anyway, if it is such a good idea, and I happen to support it, why is that not happening already? There is talk as well of this being extended to the ports, but France and Ireland will be exceptions. This proposal has the hallmark of being thought up on the hoof.
Meanwhile the travel industry is in turmoil. I attended a videoconference today with some key travel editors from newspapers with household names. Each editor was bemoaning the lack of advertising revenue at the moment, so the newspapers available to the public in six months’ time may be very different to those available now. Some of the editors gave the impression that the UK would at some point return to normal, and one was saying this might be as early as this August. Take it from me, there is no chance of that. We are likely to be living with this new beastie until well into 2021, possibly much longer. The world is looking at a new normal, whatever that may be. Normal as we once knew it has gone.
It was not only the content of the meeting that fascinated me, but also those who had chosen to attend. Everyone looked sallow, it is the way of it these days, but one also had a streaming cold. She blew her nose repeatedly as the rest of us looked on. I realise there is no chance of being infected by a fellow attendee at a videoconference, but Covid-19 has put me so much on edge that every time she blew her nose – she honked like a good one – I found myself ducking to avoid the spray. I did not have the heart to ask her if she thought she had Covid-19. For some reason, when the videoconference was over, I breathed a sigh of relief and took a large dose of Vitamin C from my bathroom cupboard. Vitamin C is meant to keep coughs and colds at bay.
There is more attention being paid to care homes these days, which is not before time. First, they were ignored, next they were lumped together with the hospitals, now they deserve mention of their own. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has discovered that people working in social care in England and Wales are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as the general working-age population. Hospital employees are no more likely to die than other workers. The ONS has produced a study that has analysed Covid-19-related deaths by occupation up until 20 April 2020. Of the 2494 deaths from Covid-19 for those aged 20-64 years, nearly two-thirds were in men. The ONS did not adjust their figures for either ethnic group or place of residence. The conclusions read as follows:
“Men and women working in social care, a group including care workers and home carers, both had significantly raised rates of death involving COVID-19, with rates of 23.4 deaths per 100,000 males (45 deaths) and 9.6 deaths per 100,000 females (86 deaths).
Healthcare workers, including those with jobs such as doctors and nurses, were not found to have higher rates of death involving COVID-19 when compared with the rate among those whose death involved COVID-19 of the same age and sex in the general population.”
This is a serious finding, with huge implications for the care homes.