Looking ahead, the watchword is safety - GulfToday

Looking ahead, the watchword is safety

coronavirus 2

Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

James Moore, The Independent

Has it really been only six months since the World Health Organisation officially declared us to be in the midst of a full blown pandemic?

That brought me up short because, stop and think about it a moment. Consider how the life we thought we knew has changed out of all recognition since the first reports emerged of a novel coronavirus raging in Wuhan, when people thought it might just be like a really nasty flu. Only the terminally deluded say that now.

The rest of us? We’ve adopted a whole new language, or at least a new lexicon. Social distancing, lockdown, COVID-19, covidiot, masking, furloughs, testing, tracking, tracing, antibodies. Some of those words, or phrases, are as novel as the virus itself. Others, like the last handful, were already with us, but they sure as hell weren’t the subject of everyday conversation.

Meanwhile, whole sectors of the economy have been shuttered and gutted – hospitality in particular – but also traditional bricks and mortar retail, some manufacturing, aviation, and travel. And so it goes on. And on. And on.

Some businesses remain closed. You’re unlikely to be able to enjoy live music or theatres until a vaccine has been found and approved. Other industries though — tech in particular — have boomed as Britain has adjusted to lockdown life.

And despite the excitable reports that do the rounds about the ones researchers are working on, sometimes pushed by politicians eager to bask in the glory of their countries’ scientific efforts, it’s rapidly becoming clear that developing one isn’t going to be simple. Unlike the fictional pandemic in Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion which was beaten when the scientist said, “Wow … that monkey I injected with the virus and the vaccine is alive. Let’s get the mass vaccination programme rolling so Matt Damon’s daughter can see her boyfriend!”

Some of the changes we’ve endured will be permanent. Some of them are beneficial.

The adoption of home working, for example, because home working is flexible working, and that can only be good news for families. And we’ve suddenly all remembered to wash our hands again.

Others, such as the return of mass unemployment, the grim mental health consequences, the opportunities denied to young people, are about as welcome as being locked in solitary confinement with only Boris Johnson’s speeches for company.

But troubling though these effects may be, spare a thought for the tens of thousands of Britons who won’t get to see them, can’t be part of the debate about how to tackle them. The UK is a world leader in per capita death rate, which represents a searing indictment of the flailing and incompetent response of Boris Johnson’s government.

Our government’s stunning incompetence means if we want to beat this damnable thing we’re going to have to do a lot more for ourselves. That includes the wearing of face coverings. There was a time when you couldn’t get hold of masks for love nor money. I remember my wife’s excitement when she spied some homemade affairs on eBay.

Now? Now everyone’s putting their logos on them and flogging them like printed t-shirts. I have a set splattered with the badge of the Las Vegas Raiders, another “dad being silly” one with the face of a penguin on the front. Bands, unable to play live, have started touting them to top up their streaming income.

Here’s one ever so slightly comforting fact about living in a nation that elected Johnson and his law breaking gangster government: the British public isn’t listening to the right’s noisy corps of empty heads on this one. Polls show widespread support for public health measures, including the forthcoming six-person meeting limit that the government hopes will stem what’s starting to look worryingly like the beginnings of the much feared second wave in England.

Whether it will be is open to question. That’s the really disturbing thing about the vicious little bundle of proteins and RNA folded into a spiked ball that’s wrought this havoc.

There is still so much that we just don’t know. I don’t know whether I might have suffered any long-term effects from my extended encounter with it, beyond the nagging and frustrating fatigue I wrote about earlier this week.

The fact that I’ve had it (well I’m 99 per cent sure) gives me a certain comfort when I’m out of the house. But should it? Could I get it again? I’m certainly not about to act as if it coats me in an armour of antiviral chainmail.

Looking ahead to the next six months, the watchword has to be safety first for all of us. Too many people have died for it to be otherwise.

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