I’ve been thinking a bit recently about how we get ourselves out of this, and the media are starting to talk about it too.
It seems to me that, purely thinking in terms of not contracting COVID-19, the best plan is just to have people isolate for as long as possible.
But I don’t think that can be the only priority. People are going stir crazy in their own houses. It is variable, it is definitely affecting some more than others, but it is there. I have also had some of my clients say to me why should I isolate when so-and-so clearly isn’t? And, I’ve seen that with my own neighbours, so I can understand their frustration. People like to say we’re all in the same boat, but I don’t think that is particularly true.
Then, of course, there is the economic impact of most people being unable to work.
So I think if you are a government, you have to strike a balance. I think you need to look at what you want to achieve, and act accordingly. I think in the first instance, you want to try and foster an environment where people will willingly stay home. Discourage gatherings – so pubs, restaurants, coffee shops stay closed, but at the same time allow things like DIY stores and garden centres to open up, just so that people have something to do while remaining at home.
I saw a news clip from Italy, I think, which talked about book stores being opened. That sounds reasonable – give people the means to go out and purchase a book, which they can then take home to read. Same goes for CDs and DVDs. I’d also look sector by sector, and start opening things up, provided a safe distance can be maintained from other people. HMRC (our state’s tax collectors) already has a list of sectors, because you need to choose one from the list when you start up a company, so I don’t think it’s too big an ask for (elected) politicians to go through that list one-by-one.
Things like schools don’t come top of my list – I don’t really see a big difference between a child matriculating at 16 or at 17 (it seems utterly selfish that some people complain about losing a year, when other people’s whole lives are at stake), but I am aware that putting younger children into school will free up their parents from childcare duties, and allow them to return to work. Places like doctors’ surgeries I’d leave as long as possible – after all which of us wants to sit in a Waiting Room at the moment?
But there’s a kicker here. If you’re going to open any business, you have to make sure you’re able to test the workers, at the very least, so you know when something has started and are able to stamp it out. These people will maybe come into contact with hundreds of other people each day, so will remain at high risk. And, I’m not just talking about, say, health workers, here. We should also recognise that even people like supermarket workers are exposing themselves to risk every time they go to work. And have done so for the duration. I don’t want to get into nonsense about who is the most vital, but it covers several sectors. The common thread is that these people are helping other people, not just helping themselves. These people need to know asap if they become infected, if the aim is to safely reignite our economies again.
Which brings me to… testing in the UK. I presume we’re pretty typical, we are all competing in the same marketplace after all. I’ve already posted about this, at the start of the crisis the Prime Minister put a number of desired tests at 25,000 per day. We couldn’t even get halfway there before his health minister raise the stakes to 100,000 per day, by the end of April. It is arguable whether we got there, but it was just a conjured-up number anyway. We’re pretty much headed in the right direction, but even that number means it will be almost 3 years before everybody gets a test. But not so long ago, it was 18 years!
But I don’t particularly want to knock our government. I do feel that in general, BoJo has always had this groundless optimism – optimism is the one thing he has going for him, but there don’t really seem to be any concrete ideas behind him. Things will get better but I’m not quite sure how – and so it is no surprise that, having now been elected, his government echoes him. But… the media are already asking uncomfoprtable questions, making comparisons with how other countries have fared, so these things will doubtless come out as time goes by. And, we can bypass the govenrment filters and find out our own information, if we feel they’re not fully transparent.
My gut feel is that the next steps might well be resignations. I believe that politicians (not just in the UK) value their economies more than anything, so they will be wanting to lift things, when the scientists still feel it is unsafe. I think that’s going to be inevitable, whether it is a week or a year. It is already happening in some places. And the scientists will have to choose whether to say fuck this and walk away, or to stay and be quiet. But my experience has been that workers in the public sector are nowhere near as sharp as their private sector counterparts, however, so they might be worried just because if they lose their job, they might struggle to find another. We will see.