Life on Plague Island (Day 321)

As Britain lurched past 100,000 deaths last week, I saw people post an interview with Jacinda Ardern on Twitter, where she talks about making her plan for coronavirus. What’s interesting about that is not her particular approach; shutting down the UK completely would have been hard to justify in early 2020. But Ardern is clear about her aims. Cutting off a country looked drastic, but now I watch with envy as New Zealand has music festivals. Their economy has still taken a hit, but normal life is recovering.

Meanwhile, Britain’s government tries to balance lockdown and the economy, and fails at both. There has been talk about quarantine hotels recently. The policy was trailed in the papers for days before a half-hearted implementation was finally announced. I’m not even sure that these hotels have yet opened. They don’t cover people whose destination is hidden by transfers.

The thing that surprises me is how little anger there is against the government. The polls suggest a solid base of 40% support, which seems ludicrous given the number of mis-steps that have been made. Without acknowledging how weak the response has been so far, there is no way to try a new approach. I find myself waiting for fury; instead, support rallies on the government’s vaccination success. Buoyed by this support, the government has announced a date for reopening schools rather than an actual plan, with the promise that pubs will follow within two months. The newspapers include reference to “Boris” wanting to reunite families at Easter.

It’s no wonder that some people are confused about the difference between guidance, laws, leaks and ministerial statements. Last week, a friend got angry with me recently for not wearing a mask outdoors as a matter of course. I was defensive, and I part of that that is fear. If it’s not safe to be outdoors unmasked, then a lot of things the government implies are safe are actually incredibly dangerous.

The vaccine programme is all we have, and it’s not certain that it will solve Britain’s coronavirus crisis. Countries such as Japan, Thailand, New Zealand and even China seem to have been far more successful than we have been, yet there is no real sense of learning lessons from them.

Obviously, nobody cares all that much about my views on politics. This blog post simply records my feelings of quiet, frustration at the situation we are in. A few months ago, I was hoping we would be out of lockdown by Easter. Now, I’m not even sure we will be out of lockdown by June.

Back in March 2020, the Prime Minister claimed we would turn the tide on coronavirus in 12 weeks.

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2 thoughts on “Life on Plague Island (Day 321)”

  1. I’m fascinated by how taboos emerge during such a time. There is so much we could be talking about now, but the general air is of holding on, waiting, hoping, seeing what happens. At the start, there was talk of pollution levels and what it might mean for a new future. Now, people seem to just want a vaccine and meet people. Which is understandable, but also a wasted opportunity?

    Nobody wants to talk about whether pandemics are systemically related to travel, climate change, mass populations. Nobody wants to offer up suggestions around addressing death-risk factors, such as obesity. Nobody wants to look back over the last year and challenge the status quo of ‘we did all we could’. It’s as if any of those topics would puncture a hole in the hope of returning to normal.

    I’m not planning to return to normal.

    1. A lot of people have been saying how it’s good that we have the Internet for lockdown; but I also wonder whether this pandemic has a connection to the Internet and the changes in travel/migration/business it supports. Certainly, the coronavirus’s incubation time is perfect for evading the world’s current defences.

      You’re right, and it’s good to be reminded. We should be working towards making a better normal after the pandemic. Getting good at remote working now will mean commuting can be eradicated.

      The obesity thing is weird. Not just the issues around obesity being a way of blaming people’s behaviour for widescale failures; but how the government boasted about the new measures about food and health, yet nothing has been made into law. The weird policy anouncements over the last year are quite something, and someone should be holding the government to account. (Remember the moonshot?)

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