Well, we didn’t expect this 3 months ago did we. Back then all we cared about was getting Brexit done and making sure that that socialist nutcase Jeremy Corbyn with his command economy and his magical socialist money tree didn’t get anywhere near government. Bridgwater looks like a wasteland-shops closed, empty streets, queues at the Foodbank, the NHS struggling to cope, oh no that was BEFORE coronavirus…that was after 10 years of Tory austerity, I forgot. And of course people were dying all the way through that. The difference is that now we’re focused-because we have to be. Focused on the problem and focused on the solution. When we come out of this the world will have changed -that’s for sure. It will have to.
Clear blue skies, devoid of aviation fuel, streets empty of lung destroying pollutants, the fish have come back to Venice and our 2030 carbon targets look like they can be met by late September at this rates. What a wonderful world it was and can be.
So, at the moment we’re in lock down. Although it is a rather British lock down. A bit ramshackle. A tad haphazard. It’s as if Sgt Wilson from Dads Army was running the show saying “I really would rather appreciate if at all you didn’t mind possibly self-isolating for a jot, if it’s not too much trouble”. And on the first night of Boris Johnson’s declaration of impending catastrophe and the need to lock down at once, people did just that. In their nearest pubs. One last BIG go at all getting the virus before we hunker down with our families.
But we have to trust our leaders at times of crisis-even if they’re a bit ‘twatty’. The real life-saving message is ‘Stay at home, Protect the NHS and Save lives’. Of course, the Brits didn’t like that message at first but if only because they now realise that the sooner it’s done the sooner this will be over they’re all now getting down to it.
So how did we get here?
The virus had started in China round about Christmas 2019 but wasn’t identified until mid-January by which time the Chinese authorities were treating dozens of cases of what initially appeared to be just a new strain of pneumonia in the city of Wuhan. The first death was 11th January and it was a 61 year-old man with underlying health issues and who was a regular at the ground zero infected live animal food market (there’s lesson 1 by the way).
By January 20th the virus had spread to Japan and South Korea. A day later to the USA. All connected to people who had traveled from Wuhan. In England the Government upgraded the risk from ‘very low’ to ‘low’.
On 23rd Jan after 17 deaths China locks down Wuhan. 100,000 people have however already left the city.
On Jan 29th the first 2 British cases emerge. Both from the same Chinese family on holiday in York.
30th January WHO (The World Health Organisation) declares a world health emergency as around the world 213 people have now died and 10,000 are infected.
On February 7th heroic Chinese doctor Li Wenliang who had alerted the world to the virus in the first place dies of it.
February 14th Valentines day sees Europe’s first death. In France.
By the end of February the virus was clearly raging with Italy proving particularly vulnerable and whole towns are locked down and major gatherings cancelled. The Italians sing to us from their balconies and we know we’re all one world after all.
On March 4th the UK sees its biggest one-day increase-from 34 to 87 which means that measures really ought to be considered back home. It Italy all schools and Universities are closed. In Britain no action is taken and within 5 days the numbers have jumped to 373 with 6 deaths.
On March 11th Before people have hardly had time to forget his massive giveaway budget draw from his previously denied magic money tree, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces an even-more-emergency £12bn coronavirus budget, but it’s poorly defined and lacks clarity.
On 13th March, without any Government guidance, organisations start doing it for themselves. The Premier League and the London Marathon suspend themselves and schools find themselves having to start to close as staff start self-isolating
On 16th March the UK death toll rises to 55 out of 1,543 cases and Boris Johnson tries to reassure the nation by holding daily press briefings. Sadly, these are in crowded rooms with ministers, health advisers and the press in close proximity. The next day it’s down to Rishi Sunak to do the press briefing and try to save the economy yet again by pulling £330bn from his newly found magic money forest. The next day UK schools are asked to close. Mostly. Apart from children of essential workers. Who are not quite sure who they are.
On March 19th China has now survived 2 months of lock down and reached zero local infections
On 20th March Bridgwater Town Council becomes the first of our local authorities to go into lockdown. Staff leave the municipal buildings and councilors meet online. Town Clerk David Mears assumes emergency powers not seen in Bridgwater since Cromwell.
Definitely not making it up as he goes along, Boris Johnson now decides the time is right to close all pubs, cafes and restaurants. Pubs, cafes and restaurants do a years trading in a single night.
March 23rd sees Johnson advise people not to go outside apart from to buy food, exercise and go to work. People are not sure what exactly he’s telling them, so the weekend sees beauty spots, parks and beaches swarming with sociably non distancing Brits.
Tests are proven to be the key, but they are few and far between and difficult to access. Prince Charles however gets one and on March 25th is forced to self-isolate somewhere on one of his vast Highland estates
On March 26th people across the UK clap cheer and ring bells to thank the NHS workers for what they’re doing. Boris joins them in this and hopes that now finally the message of self-isolating and social distancing is getting across to people. The next day he comes down with the virus himself having failed to listen to his own advice.
It’s all about the Boris….
‘Oo but he’s doing a wonderful job is Boris’ you hear people say. But is he?? Really?? The silly bugger told us all to self-distance, ignored his own advice and ended up catching the virus himself. And then not only that, passed it on to his Health minister and , more importantly, the Chief Health adviser -the actual person who we need genuinely to be fit and healthy right now.
Surely yet again with the Tories it’s not a case of do as I say (not as I do)??
And of course he’s good at invoking the Churchillian spirit…remembering how we overcame adversity in world war 2 through sacrifice, sweat and tears. But…..if I’ve got this right, my dad and his generation were asked to brave arctic winters, German u boats and Stuka dive bomber attacks for several years, while today we’re being asked to stay at home and watch the telly for a couple of weeks. Come on boys!! We can do it!! Settee beckons!!
But, in truth, we do have to trust our leaders…and that’s quite hard with this lot, but really we have to. It’s a bit like World War 2 in the sense that all parties had to come together and while some eccentric populist figure was on your radio or tv saying the right sort of rallying thing to lift spirits, the actual graft was done by the ordinary working people of the country (and the socialists who ran the home office during the war) ..and then after the crisis was over the populist one that had led us all into this and was the public face was voted out.
Of course in Churchills case it was all about fighting them on the beaches and in the country lanes and in the tea shoppes of Henley whilst in Boris’ case it was ‘I’m not going to stop shaking the hands of corona virus victims’…and then coming down with it. About as sensible as if Churchill had said ‘we’ll fight them on the beaches’ and then gone off personally to fight them on Dunkirk beach a week after the troops had left.
Lost in Time and Space
But of course we don’t live in some mythical Ealing comedy where although the bumbling male lead is endearingly comical and regularly falls into custard pies we all come out of it smelling of roses, it’s a deadly serious matter with people dying in very large numbers. So, command and organization are critically important to get us through this. Discipline, trust and obedience. Respect for your comrades and knowing that someone’s got your back. You really do need to know that if you’re being asked to go forward into the breech that the person next to you has got the right equipment and has the right motivation. You don’t want to leap into a trench only to find the guy next to you has brought his deckchair, his packed lunch and a funny red nose in case he has to entertain some mildly upset 4 year olds.
Of course, and inevitably, evil tory Svengali Dominic Cummings has now also got corona virus. Last seen running away from Downing street as Boris was making his ‘oh dear I’ve got it now’ announcement, it was pretty inevitable and draws a full circle around the ‘you do this (but we don’t have to)’ shower of Tories in charge. Anyway, better safe than sorry. Now he’s in self isolation better give it, say, a couple of years.
But we’re all in this together-I often wonder how Jacob Rees Mogg is coping through this self-isolation with his big country mansion while I wander round my one bedroom flat trying to vary my routine by wearing different trousers every 3rd day. In fact I’ve taken to placing various of my daughters larger cuddly toys in different corners of the room and visiting them at different times of day. None of them have a good word to say about Boris either. Though some are quite loud at night. What? Yes ok I’ll get you a glass of milk Dave.
All in this Together
As I write this there have been 1,228 deaths in Britain and the first 3 have just been announced in Somerset-which is one of the lighter hit regions – currently that’s 36 cases in a population of 559,399. It will get worse but, even though we’re isolated from one another we are still fighting this together
Bridgwater people have of course come together as you’d expect them to. Very quickly a Coronavirus support network was set up by community volunteers acting on their own initiative such as Daniel Ball, Kirstie Sutton, John Hardy, Liam Tucker and Simon Bale (check them here) . Already they’ve established a 2,000 strong neighbourhood-network across the town and working alongside Village Agents and Town and District Council staff and members are helping thousands of isolated vulnerable people with their shopping and their prescriptions, shining a floodlight of compassion and caring into the darkest nights. Soon this will be superseded by a national organization where the Local Authorities will have to play the key role due to safeguarding and insurance issues, but stepping up to the mark is something human beings do well, especially in strong working class communities like ours. Soon we’ll be looking at the situation in the countryside and on the farms as the harvest is due and people discover that the pre-Brexit EU seasonal workers aren’t there anymore. It’ll be time for a new Land Army….
Today the focus is on ventilators. We need 30,000 and we have 8,000. So we’re buying some from China-which has sent Nigel Farage apoplectic. ”Can this be true!” he rages…hang on-weren’t you the one who said we should be trading with the world now, Nige? So George Monbiot reminded him “You can actually die of xenophobia….”
Of course, the answer is testing. NHS has capacity for 10,000-yet we’ve only carried out 7,000. In Germany, they’re testing 500,000 people a week and have 29 ICU beds per 100,000 people. Here in the UK we have 6. In Germany the mortality rate for CV patients is 0.8%. In the UK it’s 6.3%. Austerity was a choice you know. A policy the Tories actually chose.
So I’ve managed to prove without a shadow of a doubt that Boris is totally incompetent and making it up as he goes along, fails to follow his own advice and dithers then blusters and that socialism is the obvious answer for people in times of crisis and that Jeremy Corbyn was right all along when he said that the Tories had destroyed the NHS and run down our social services with their years of austerity. So how come the opinion polls now put the Tories on 54% (and that’s up 7). Some things are beyond me. I do not accept that people are daft. Give me some evidence of that! But, at least one thing Boris HAD TO ADMIT this week was that his guru M.Thatcher was wrong when she said ‘There’s no such thing of society’. Boris had to say “One thing I think the coronavirus crisis has already proved is that there really is such a thing as a society”. Of course there is, and now’s when we need to know that most.