With the Government announcing, with some justified pride, that the 15 millionth first jab has been administered in the UK and that the spectre of mortality had been reduced for the 88% of the population most at risk from Covid, this week’s Sunday Times headline proclaimed the ‘beginning of the end’.
Possibly the most significant dimension of the pandemic has been a realisation that Human Kind is in possession of far less knowledge of its own situation than it cares to believe. The sequitur of this, one might care to believe, would be a new-found humility – which may or may not come about. Fortunately, human nature also dictates that calamities that befall us are perceived as failures of anticipation, preparedness and response; and that we need to learn from our experiences.
Setting aside the WHO delegation current presence in Wuhan in a seemingly forlorn pursuit of this pandemic’s origins, and despite the UK’s Loyal Opposition demand for an immediate Royal Commission, now is not the time for a formal full-blown inquest. However, there certainly is sufficient material available to suggest fruitful paths for future consideration. The Ericle, as evidenced in previous posts, is an avid and enthusiastic reader of Private Eye. During the pandemic, I have referenced that august organ’s most excellent MD column that has provided a most worthy source of objective analysis and ahead-of-the-curve thinking. What follows below is largely informed by MD‘s most recent musings:
The UK Government has not been ‘up to the task’. It is very likely be that though the vaccination program will come to be regarded as the most significant contribution to the final victory over the virus, this can not hide that Boris & His Mates have not had ‘a good war’. Not many governments have. They have all lost battles that they should not have. This not withstanding, the UK government’s decision making has been worse than most. At almost every junction it has been behind behind-the-curve and inflexible.
There is no ‘typical’ pandemic. The government’s modelling, on which it based its policies, initially treated a coronavirus as if it was an influenza. It then compounded this by modelling this (Sars) virus as if it was the 2003 variant; the latter being a high morbidity/low incidence virus whereas the current coronavirus is a low morbidity/high incidence variant.
The battle is between Vaccines & Variants. Though not impossible, we are unlikely to find a cure for Coronavirus. MD aptly references Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen who explains to Alice: “It takes all the running you can do, just to keep in the same place”. Virus & Victim are involved in an ever evolving battle with each other. The most likely scenario is that we will have to live with coronavirus and manage its evolving variations. That this should be a battle of ever-decreasing morbidity is supported by the fact that the relationship is a symbiotic one – if the virus kills its host it kills itself – and that it is of mutual interest that the virus become increasingly benign.
So where does the above leads us to in the conduct of our future society:
Prepare for the worst. The countries that had directly experienced the Sars 2003 were the ones that were most fearful of the V-2 variant, and instituted the speediest precautionary policies. They also were the ones who better interpreted the tealeaves of China’s attempts to cover up the seriousness of what has come down. As a result, their populations were relatively less effected than less fearful others. Bottom line: don’t be afraid to be afraid and foster an international community, (see below), that encourages the fullest and earliest disclosure.
Speed Of Response is a critical factor, following on from the above
Risk is not only current but future. The dilemma facing government has been painfully clear as to which segments of the population have been at the most immediate and highest risk. It has also been clear that the virus has effected the population along economic lines such that very often those most as risk have been the least able to isolate and seek help. However, they have also been challenged by future risk to the young and the economy-driving demographic groupings. That is why programmes involving social distancing, test-and-trace, community support systems & border quarantining are all part of the matrix of measures need for effective combating of pandemics
Following the science is not enough. Easily said, more difficult to deliver! See Prepare for the worst, (above).
Full International Disclosure. Blaming countries, especially in line with ongoing geo-political fault lines, is the thin of the wedge. Turning countries into pariah states serves little purpose. In many ways – and I say this as an International Relations graduate – the needs of dealing with a global pandemic are counter-intuitive to much of what constitutes actual practice within the arena of international politics. But just because this is the case, doesn’t mean that the objective should not be apparent and clearly stated. Dare one believe that mutuality of interest on the health dimension may, for once, becomes the ‘exception that proves the rule’?
Inquests there will be, and in a variety of form and scale. If they are to be more than domestic and international finger-pointing, they will need at the very least to address all of the above.