Pandemic Retreat, Day 162

The 150-day mark passed relatively unnoticed, and soon it will be 6-months since I stopped going into work because of the pandemic. I keep coming back to the government’s blithe reassurances that things would be back to normal within 12 weeks. Now, it’s obvious that things will not be over by Christmas.

I think I’ve said already that the first stage of this was relatively easy for me. (If I have said it before, this reflects how repetitive things have got). Life was certainly simple. Since June things have felt strange and alienating. In some ways the world is bounding forward, but it’s only pretending to be normal. It’s easy to feel bleak about the future.

Track and Trace was one of the important routes back to normality, but it has been a disaster. Using a centralised, outsourced system instead of bolstering existing local resources seemed a strange decision. It definitely hasn’t worked well. Local tracing has been used in hotspots and these are achieving contact rates of about 98% compared with 50-75% from the national organisation, depending on which reports you take.

Meanwhile, Dido Harding continues to fail upwards, the mess of track and trace being rewarded with a promotion to run a new body replacing Public Health England. Reorganising departments is an old trick for failing governments, since it looks decisive, but I’m not filled with confidence. Harding’s main qualification for the job appears to be connections via horse-racing – and somehow being involved in one of the worst data leaks in UK history does not count against her.

On top of the current crisis, we have the deadline of 31st December, when the current EU transition period ends. While there’s a lot of talk about a last-minute deal, I’m not sure how so many complicated issues can be solved quickly. The Prime Minister has been on holiday too, missing the exam crisis. Johnson has form for holidaying in the middle of a crisis, as shown by his disappearance during the London riots while he was mayor.

My personal part of the pandemic feels bleak right now. I’m doing my best to prepare for winter, planning for cosy rather than confined, and catching up with friends for strolls. My work recently announced that staff would not return to work before July 2021. There’s a long way to go in this crisis.

Among the doom-scrolling, I do follow Toby Young’s Lockdown Sceptics blog. It’s an odious site. The jibes at left-wingers, PC and trans-rights suggest that Young’s resistance to lockdown is less important than furthering his other agendas. The only reason I sift through the bile and conspiracy theory is that it does turn up the occasional hopeful report. I tend to feel quite grim about how this crisis will develop, but it’s good to see that there are also less pessimistic scenarios for the future. I like to read about these deus ex machina solutions even while preparing for things to grind on for months more.

The main issue for me at the moment is balancing the risk of illness against the need to get out of the house. I’ve been enjoying my hikes, while being very cautious about meeting people indoors. When I was expecting things to last three to six months, it was easy to plan. Living in a world where the pandemic could continue in some form for years is more difficult.

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