Monday, 23 March 2020

Never surrender

If we had good government we'd have had an up to date epidemic plan that local and national officials were drilled on and we'd have locally stored stockpiles of the necessary equipment and a logistics plan requisitioning whatever civil or military logistics necessary. We'd have been ready to roll with field hospitals a week ago and we'd have a volunteer reserve corps of nurses and clinicians in much the same way we have a territorial army.

Maybe we will have all that in the future til Corona is a distant memory and we once again prune the redundancy from the system. This sort of thing is cyclic. We are never so well prepared intellectually than after the storm has passed. Research grants will be awarded and policies will be funded and new think tanks will pop up all urging supply chain resilience and beefed up local government.

One of the greatest tragedies of this outbreak has been the procrastination at the local level waiting on advice from central government. Had local authorities acted sooner we might be ahead of the game. As much as we have a top down government, the public has a top down mentality - and this must change. In the future, local health authorities must be able to make their own judgement call to step in an isolate infection clusters without waiting for permission or instruction from London.

That said, we are where we are. Lockdown. Had we acted sooner this might not have been necessary - or at least not this severe. Meanwhile some are saying this is all a massive overreaction. We're throwing ourselves into a deep and lasting recession and putting our freedoms in danger. Some are asking if it's worth it. If the hospitals are going to be swamped regardless of what we do, isn't "flattening the curve" something of a moot point?

I could almost have some sympathy with that view but then I think what's the point of even being a rich country if we're not going to mobilise every resource we have to save the lives of citizens if we can? I don't see our elderly as expendable. Many still have a great deal to contribute and their experience and memory is the one asset we cannot replace.

What we can do with a lockdown, even if we can't save everyone, is at least buy ourselves a little time to get the necessary resources into place, to accelerate research and feed medical data back to people who can make good use of it. We can innovate our way out of this and we can rebuild. I cannot think of a more miserablist defeatist attitude than to simply surrender to Corona just because of the cost and inconvenience. I'm not a statistic on some Tory balance sheet, nor is my family. I want my parents around for a long time to come. Perhaps it's the trust-fund Toryboys eyeing up their family mansions who are keen to be rid of the olds?

What's ironic here is there does seem to be a crossover between the "economy first" Tories and the no deal Brexiters. They are happy to torch the economy on the name of Brexit, but not in the name of saving lives. Frankly I'm glad we're disregarding their complaints. Britain can bounce back from this. We have the knowledge, we have the infrastructure, and the political will. This is not something we did to ourselves for a dodgy "free trade" prospectus. We're doing this because we are human. Peter Hitchens may be right. There is a health cost to an economy in a depression and maybe in the long run we won't save lives... but I'll give everything just to try. If we're not about that then what is any of this about?

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