I’m on a bit of a health regime prior to my operation next week. Philippa’s been feeding me on vegetables in modest quantity, and I am totally off the booze. All too easy on these long balmy summer evenings to enjoy a glass of white burgundy which then becomes a bottle….. If I am to have my undercarriage repaired, I’d better make sure that the fuselage is not too Jumbo. So I did take advantage of Rishi Sunak’s £10 off initiative; but also listened carefully to the PM’s more or less simultaneous warning against obesity. (Not that I am obese, I hasten to add- just a little plumper that I used to be.) It’s all a question of balance- a few little changes of habit here and there can have a disproportionate benefit.
It’s the same with the campaign against Covid. A couple of weeks ago we were in mildly self-congratulatory mood. The numbers seemed satisfactory; lockdown could be eased just in time for the Summer holidays; the Government turned its attention to the economy. The PM was making cheerful speeches about firing up the old Cortina and getting it all going again; and even the most pessimistic of us sighed a mild sigh of relief as we smelled a chance of ‘getting back to normal’.
The mood has changed in the last few days as we start to see some very worrying spikes both on the Continent and at home. Spain, Belgium, and very probably France, are beginning to look a bit out of control. Here we are playing a successful game of whack-a-mole as best we can with local lock-downs apparently working pretty well, including in nearby Swindon.
Piloting the ship of state at a time like this is a delicate business. The health of the nation must be paramount. We cannot let Covid run riot, especially not as we move towards Autumn and the usual seasonal uptick in hospitalised diseases. Yet a collapsed economy would be even more damaging to people’s lives. So we have to Keep Safe; but also get back to work.
I really feel for people who have been through a tough time and were greatly looking forward to a little bit of Sun. How awful to discover half-way through your holiday in Spain that you had to go into two week’s quarantine on your return, or even worse to have to cancel it altogether. Yet if you do not do so you will personally be contributing to the second wave; and the economic collapse which would go with it. It’s a very delicate balance- holiday and quarantine; or staycation in the rain?
The delicacy of the balance in the war against Covid is why the very many people who fill my mailbox with their own sure-fire solutions to the crisis are wasting their time. There are those who are clear that we should have followed Sweden’s lead and gone for Herd Immunity. There are those who think we should be in total lockdown more or less indefinitely. There are still those around who think it’s all a figment of someone’s imagination; there are plenty who have their own brilliant idea about immigration being the core fault; about track and trace systems; about air filtration systems which ought to do the trick.
The reality is that none of them are necessarily wrong; but none of them is right either. There is no golden spike solution to this Pandemic. It’s about gentle twitches on the levers of government responding to changes as we go along. It’s not about Health versus Prosperity. It’s about doing what we can to secure both. Undercarriage and fuselage.