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How to destroy the virus

 

Back to normal or not?

 

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Thoughts on ...

 

The November lockdown                                                        4/11/20

 

Notes to help form a view about the latest lockdown – for everyone but especially MPs who are about to vote on the issue. They are a compilation of my thoughts and conclusions since March set out in note form under the following headings:

 

emotional and mental process; lockdown decision; mortality and health; jobs and the economy; liberty; summary and future action.

 

Emotional and mental process

 

We must summon up all our powers of empathy, sympathy and love for one another in order to form a view. For those who have suffered illness and death from Covid or other causes, for those left grieving, for those enduring financial hardships and anxiety, for those experiencing mental health difficulties or loneliness.

 

We must put ourselves in the position of others.

 

We must also bring our mental faculties up to the highest level and apply the most thoughtful and rigorous analysis to reaching a view.  No preconceived notions, no selecting facts to suit our position, no partisan political influences on what we think, appraising information, making up our own minds, testing the logic of our opinions. Plus listening carefully, respectfully and with an open mind.

 

Lockdown decision

 

 

One of the most momentous peacetime decisions ever taken by government. Why? Only way to save thousands of lives, restore the economy and start process of eliminating virus as has happened in East Asia and Australasia. If successful it will lead the way for similar action globally.

 

For me it’s 100% the right decision and 100% the only decision.

Local and regional restrictions not working. Once again we have what can only be described as carnage.

 

If restrictions are not imposed nationally those areas of the country which have low, but steadily rising, infections will soon have a huge increase.

Losing 3 lives a day is 3 too many. Losing 300 a day is an appalling tragedy with devastating consequences for loved ones. Losing more than this is unimaginable.

 

This time last year if there had been just 50 lost lives because of a mystery virus it would have been a national disaster.

 

Deaths from Covid have become mere statistics and we must always remember the personal tragedies they represent.

 

There is no balance to be struck between saving lives and maintaining economic activity. I ask those who persist in using this argument to say what they think the balance should be in actual numbers – should it be 10 lost lives a day, 100, 1000 or more?

 

Although I’ve been extremely critical of how the crisis has been managed from the outset I commend the Prime Minister for his prompt action, his moral and political courage and his strength of character. It is not easy to change course especially in the face of pressure from public opinion and politicians.

 

Mortality and health

 

 

No one wants people to die. All lives are precious – those of our loved ones and those of strangers. And all lives are precious whether we are young or old or in between.

 

Human beings have a great instinct for compassion. People rescue others from rubble of buildings, from boats carrying migrants, from fires etc. Plus as a society we have emergency services to do this – for individuals in the street and for large groups. We have the NHS to save people from fatal illnesses of any sort whether these are common or rare.

 

Nor does the NHS ignore the elderly and those with underlying conditions.

We come together as a society to fund these services – a restriction of our liberty to keep the money we earn but one we accept in the interests of our families, the wider community and of course ourselves.

 

We also protect lives by having restrictive legislation to ensure safety on the roads, in the workplace, in our homes, when we fly, and in hundreds of different situations.

 

We have restrictive legislation to combat terrorism.

 

There may only be a few people who die each year from a particular cause but we still do something about it.

 

Not relevant to compare number of deaths from different causes. Covid is one more cause – and could easily become the biggest cause.

Argument centres around extent to which protecting lives of some people disrupts lives of others – in different ways – primarily the effect on jobs and daily life.

 

Jobs and the economy

 

Economies of all countries were always going to be severely affected by the pandemic. It is a unique event in human history and not sensible to discuss economic effect in conventional ways e.g. looking at GDP, government borrowing requirements, growth etc

 

Jobs in many sectors are threatened but especially hospitality, leisure and non-essential retail. Employees and businesses in all sectors must be financially supported now and well into the future. If this means higher taxes this will be a small price to pay to support them.

 

Payments for self-isolating must cover loss of earnings, and hotel accommodation should be provided if necessary.

 

Employment schemes should be set up which are either temporary or permanent – e.g. constructing cycleways, insulating homes, growing food.

It should be remembered that new jobs have been created since March – manufacturing PPE, making and erecting screens, home deliveries of groceries and online purchases, supplying bicycles. Plus economic activity in DIY sector, home entertainment, call centres.

 

Best way to restore the economy is to eliminate the virus so that normal life can gradually be resumed.

 

Effect on the future life chances of young people has been exaggerated. No reason why they shouldn’t have jobs.

 

Liberty

 

Everyone should understand that they do not have the liberty to endanger the lives of other people even if they are not endangering their own lives. They must be self-disciplined and comply with imposed discipline.

 

We must accept any loss of liberty which results in lives being saved however regrettable such disruption is to our daily life. We can surely survive not going out to cafes and pubs for a month.

 

A less frenetic, more reflective, Christmas would probably be a good thing.

The argument that this means we are living in a near totalitarian state is just silly.

 

Summary and future action

 

We must all support the government and come together to reduce substantially any further loss of life.

 

If those who don’t support another lockdown can come up with a better way to save lives they should say what it is. Herd immunity is not a credible strategy and never has been – it has not been tested or subjected to rigorous scientific analysis; it will cost lives in all age groups; and if it involves shielding certain  people, how is this to be done, and is it fair to deprive this particular group of their liberty?

 

The lockdown should be supported by all MPs.

 

The government must deal with financial hardship and mental health difficulties whatever form they take.

 

We should not be over-concerned about the loss of a certain amount of liberty.

 

We need to change our mindsets that life is getting back to normal. It is clearly not.

 

 

We must not accept that we have to learn to live with the virus. Our aim must be to virtually eliminate it as other countries have done.

 

To do this, discipline and 100% compliance with the rules must be expected from everyone and enforced.

 

We need individual and collective determination, resilience, and full focus as never before.

 

We need everyone to be united in the fight against the virus led by a government of national unity.

 

Everyone, especially a small group of seemingly uncaring politicians and commentators, needs to acknowledge the following:

 

THERE IS NO BALANCE TO BE STRUCK.

IT MUST ALWAYS BE LIVES BEFORE LIVELIHOODS, LIBERTY AND LEISURE PURSUITS. THESE CAN BE RESTORED, LIVES CANNOT.

 

WITH LOVE SHOWN BY EVERYONE, AND BY CARING FOR EACH OTHER, WE CAN SAVE LIVES, ELIMINATE THE VIRUS, AND GET SOCIETY ALMOST BACK TO NORMAL.

 

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Thoughts on ...                    

 

How to destroy the virus                                                         18/9/20

 

The pandemic has produced many heroes: NHS and social care workers, delivery drivers, people working in shops and supermarkets, those engaged in essential services, community volunteers and many more. I thank and salute them all. We can never repay them enough. It has also demonstrated the fortitude and resilience of the British people who have endured the hardships and isolation of lockdown as well as anxieties about their employment and income.

 

Tragically, however, too many people did not take the virus seriously enough early on. They believed that daily life and economic activity could go on as normal. This was the view of the government and the right wing press and sadly it went unchallenged in the political establishment. It was denial on a massive scale.

 

It is because, once again, we are not taking the virus seriously that the number of infections has risen dangerously. Understandably everyone wants to get back to normal as soon as possible and as restrictions are lifted it is natural to feel that life is returning to normality.

 

But it seems to me we have been too impatient. The pandemic has been the most unique event in human history in terms of the combination of its death toll, its global reach, its effect on daily life and its disruption to the economy. Too many people have not yet grasped its unique place in history and the fact that this has required a unique response bringing normal life to a halt.

As long as the virus is with us life will not return to normal. Which is why it must be eliminated – not controlled, nor managed nor accepted as an inevitable fact of life. Eliminated, eradicated, exterminated, killed off, destroyed. It may not be possible to kill it off completely but we can come very close.

 

How can we do this? By changing our mindset about it in two ways. First, we must believe we can come close to killing it off. We must have high expectations of ourselves that we can do this if together we all make a determined effort, as determined as we have ever made before in peacetime. As individuals each one of us must take on the challenge so that collectively we succeed.

 

And to succeed we must change our mindsets in another way. We must not think that life is now getting more or less back to normal. It is not and will not be until we either get a vaccine for the virus, or it mutates into a less deadly form, or we get rid of it. Crucially, too, we must not behave as if life is getting back to normal.

 

It is our behaviour that determines whether the virus is transmitted or not. If we get our behaviour right we can prevent infection spreading as the spread of infection is on the whole preventable.

 

We have a moral responsibility as individuals to act and behave in a way that protects other people as well as ourselves. It is a basic human instinct to care for our fellow humans and we must put this instinct to the forefront of our actions and behaviour. To this end all of us, whatever our age, must exercise maximum self-discipline in following to the letter the existing rules and procedures brought in to prevent the infection spreading – social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing and abiding by the restrictions required in different parts of the country. The reasons why we have these procedures must be carefully explained by the government and gently but very firmly enforced.

 

But there is no reason why we cannot go further. We can exercise self-discipline by not travelling abroad, by reducing the travel we do in this country, by not going to pubs and cafes more than once a week. In fact by staying at home and within a mile or so of it as much as possible.

 

It should go without saying by now that no one who has any symptoms of the virus should go out at all and should exercise great care within their home. If they suspect they have the virus they must ask for a test immediately. The government must compensate for loss of earnings those who need to isolate.

 

It must also continue to give financial support to employees, employers and the self-employed.

 

Beyond being totally conscientious in the way we abide by protective measures and totally self-disciplined in the way we voluntarily go further, we can do more as a society.

 

We can persuade members of our families and our friends to be totally conscientious and self-disciplined.

 

We should be asking well-known celebrities and public figures to get behind the fight against the virus and urge the best behaviour on their fans and followers. Sportspeople, especially premier league footballers, should continually be putting over the message about correct behaviour and why it is necessary. They must set an example by not hugging or getting close to each other at the end of a game.

 

We must ask leaders of different communities to reinforce the necessity of being conscientious.

 

Every teacher and lecturer in schools, colleges and universities must do the same as must every manager in the workplace.

 

Her Majesty the Queen should broadcast to the nation and ask everyone to do their moral and civic duty.

 

We must have a government of national unity to present a unified response and to demonstrate the resolve of our decision-makers to adopt the far more determined approach I am advocating. This does not mean, of course, that its decisions will go unchallenged. A government of national unity will also have the moral authority to take decisions that may at first be unwelcome.

 

A huge public information campaign must be undertaken to explain why by far the best strategy for dealing with Corona must be to do everything within our power to destroy the virus, not appease it, as we have been doing.

 

Much more strongly worded messages must be put out and everyone must be regularly reminded of the appalling and immensely tragic loss of life and human suffering in this country and throughout the world. Visual images should be used to do this. The slogan hands, face and space, is nowhere near strong enough.

 

However uncomfortable it may be for the government to state, the British people must be told that other countries have managed to get the virus under control, and if they can, we can.

 

If we want to prevent a further tragic loss of life on a large scale we must all come together to eliminate the virus. We all want daily life to return to normal. We all want employment and the economy to be secure. And we all want precious lives to be preserved.

 

At this stage we don’t need a second lockdown but we urgently need to change our mindsets, to exercise self-discipline and to have the highest standards of behaviour.

 

Sadly lost lives have become little more than daily statistics but every life is precious and every lost life a tragedy. To save lives we must do much, much more to destroy the virus. We must not contemplate failure. It can be done.

 

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Thoughts on ...

 

Back to normal or not?                                                           21/8/20

 

Now that lockdown measures have been eased it seems to me that many people feel they are getting back to normal. Those who have been working normally throughout the crisis have probably felt more normal than those who have not but their lives have been far from normal in other ways. It is not normal to keep two metres away from other people, to wear a mask or to be told you can’t go to a pub or a football match.

 

At some point we all desperately hope that in our personal lives we can get back to where we were before we were struck by the pandemic. I have observed elsewhere that I consider it to be the most unique event in human history through the combination of its tragic death toll, its global reach, its disruption to daily life and its effect on economic activity. The only way to combat the virus has been for all of us to live very differently from normal. Although our aim should be to try to return to our pre-corona lives as soon as we are able there is no reason why we should not take the opportunity to reflect on our personal lives and consider whether there are any aspects of them we could change for the better.

 

This is something we should certainly do when talk of returning to normal refers to society as a whole rather than our daily lives. Should our society here in the UK, as well as in the rest of the world, really be returning to normal? I don’t think so.

 

Our global and national society has contributed an enormous amount of well-being to an enormous number of people especially over the past few decades. Our health, our standard of living, our homes, our education, our leisure activities, our tolerance of different lifestyles and beliefs, our material possessions, our communications, our means of travel and our domestic and commercial use of technology, have all seen incredible advances for which many of us can be grateful. Most of us live in at least moderately democratic societies based upon the rule of law which exists to prevent harm to people and permit a generous amount of individual liberty.

 

But despite these huge advances in establishing more well-being in many aspects of our lives we are a long way short of perfection. Our normal society is not something we should be satisfied with. It is built upon deeply embedded, institutionalised inequality. Inequalities pervade the structures of society and great swathes of our national and global populations; inequalities in terms of income, standards of living, health provision and access to education, and inequalities in terms of well-being.

 

An immeasurable amount of good is being done in society. In the past six months we have seen the best of humanity from medical and care workers, from key workers of all kinds and from community volunteer groups. I believe that, generally speaking, in the past hundred years or so we have become a kinder and more compassionate society. But sadly the behaviour and attitudes of too many people means we are still doing far more harm to each other than we should be. There is too much violence, crime, mental cruelty, intolerance, exploitation and hurt of every sort.

 

If we want a better society we need a radical change of mindset about what we should consider to be normal. We need to look at every aspect of society and examine it critically to see if fulfils the only purpose that matters: its contribution to the well-being of each individual human being. As I have written previously we did not need the unimaginable tragedy of the pandemic to make us do this. We could and should have been changing our beliefs, attitudes, and the way we organise ourselves as a caring and harmonious society, long ago.

 

We must seriously reflect on the sort of society we want and ensure we do not return to normal. We must have a radical rethink about the way our economy functions, the way our democracy works and the way we educate ourselves and our young people for the purpose of forging a better society.

Those who share the view that some new thinking is urgently required by all of us, not just our politicians and decision makers, may be interested to see some thoughts I have previously set out on the direction we should consider going in many areas of society:

https://www.quercuspublications.co.uk/quercus_manifesto.htm

 

Note

 

Two policies that could be implemented immediately to support those on low incomes or the unemployed would be to raise the minimum wage, to 12.50 or possibly 15.00, and for the state to become the employer of last resort.

 

To begin the process of reforming our immature system of tribal politics and replacing it with something more representative and capable of producing rational rather than partisan decisions, the unseemly ritual of Prime Minister’s Questions should be abolished as soon as parliament reconvenes.