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Anger over coronavirus crisis will not make problem go away earlier

PUBLISHED: 06:00 16 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:48 30 April 2020

We have to accept that the lockdown will continue for some time.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

We have to accept that the lockdown will continue for some time. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Easter is supposed to be a time of hope. This year that really hasn’t been the case. Good news has been at a premium. The Prime Minister’s return to Chequers after leaving hospital has been a rare piece of good news among the gloom.

Of course coronavirus and the impact of the lockdown remains the issue that is dominating all our lives at the moment – and frankly the way the vast majority of people in the country have reacted to it and have come together while staying apart has been hugely impressive.

There have been a comparatively small number of breaches of the rules, and an even smaller number of really criminal acts like truly nasty people spitting or deliberately coughing over police or emergency services. But they have been a tiny minority and there always is a small criminal element in society – and their actions always tend to be newsworthy because they are so out of the ordinary.

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It is very difficult to judge how the pandemic is really developing and affecting our society as we live in the middle of it at present – and it is not easy to judge how to react as individuals.

For some people the situation we are currently in seems to have triggered a spike in emotions in all directions.

Some are furious with our government for failing to provide enough personal protection equipment for essential workers who need it.

Some are furious with journalists for asking difficult questions to ministers at the daily briefings – or for (as some see it) for failing to ask enough difficult questions. It saddens me when my industry comes under attack, we’re working very hard to try to keep people informed in difficult circumstances, but when “the media” is being attacked by elements from both sides of the political spectrum then maybe some of us are doing things right!

Some people are furious with the Chinese government, and even the Chinese people as a whole, because the virus started in that country.

These expressions of anger might be wholly understandable given the situation we’re in – for some people there always has to be someone to blame when things go wrong – but they really don’t take things forward very far.

There’s no point in throwing around blame in the middle of crisis. What is needed is a Herculean effort to work together to get us through, to get more supplies to hospitals, to ensure there are enough tests, and to make sure that as few people as possible become seriously ill or die from this terrible virus.

There will be time enough to stand back and learn the lessons of how we all dealt with the crisis once it has passed – and at that point we will be able to judge how well this country coped in comparison with other nations around the world.

It’s also clear that while many people are asking themselves – and any government minister who puts themselves up for interview – how and when this is all going to come to an end, it is impossible to give any clear answers at present.

It seems unthinkable that we could see any kind of total lifting of the lockdown in the foreseeable future – although by June we may have seen some relaxations.

It may be possible to go out to wide open spaces to relax. Some workplaces might be able reopen, some manufacturing may resume in factories where people don’t have to be too close to each other.

But I fear we are many months (and a reliable vaccine) away from the return of events that attract large crowds of people close to each other – theatre, cinema, sporting events.

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However government ministers are totally unable to talk about this. They know as soon as they do that some people will see it as a green light that the lockdown is coming to an end and that is absolutely not the case at present. It is unrealistic for journalists asking those kind of questions to expect to receive an answer that they will be satisfied with.

And one thing is certain – no politician, government scientist, health boss, or public servant in general will want the current lockdown to last a second longer than is absolutely necessary.

The lockdown is saving lives. It is helping to keep the number of coronavirus cases lower than they would otherwise be.

But everyday it is suffocating the economy. It is storing up health problems itself, both physically (as people with symptoms of illness stay away from doctors or hospitals) and mentally as people struggle with isolation. And it is stifling the sociable human spirit.

Everyone knows that, and will be looking for a way out – but we cannot just wish away the causes of the crisis.


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