The Keep Calm and Carry On catchphrase on your coffee cup seems quaintly entertaining in better times, but as the second wave of coronavirus sweeps Europe, perhaps we should be clinging to its wartime message.
We’re now nine months into this fight against the pandemic, but we need to quit treating COVID 19 as a crisis and we need to stop panicking over every new statistic and start preparing for the long haul.
In the early days, we were faced with a new and deadly disease and harsh measures made sense.
The first lockdowns sought to buy us time, to quell the virus and protect hospitals until a vaccine arrived, but despite gallant progress, it’s evident that no vaccine will be widely available until spring at the earliest, and possibly never.
There’s still no vaccine for SARS and there are reports that the coronavirus is mutating.
Even if there was a vaccine, the UK’s chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance said recently that it was unlikely to eradicate COVID 19 entirely, which means we must learn to live with this thing.
And in the United Kingdom, the hysteria mindset of the emergency phase had some terrible consequences.
Patients have been forced to decide which of their children to see before they die and they’re frightened lonely people who have been forced to stay at home, have put on weight, while obesity is a considerable risk factor for the virus.
Curfews have replaced unruly drinkers from pubs to car parks, with devastating takings at the till.
In Wales, which has been a one-party state since devolution, the first minister has imposed a Soviet-style prohibition on supermarkets, selling anything but essential goods, in case customers might contaminate someone while skimming for a T-shirt.
The challenge ahead is to look coolly at what works and to examine all possibilities.
Closing down swaths of the economy indefinitely will have enormous consequences for jobs, livelihood and mental health.
The UK Treasury has already expended billions to keep the economy in suspended animation and now we’re at a cliff edge with the furlough scheme for jobs about to expire and the Government must extend a more generous alternate safety net than it’s fashioned so far or they must reduce the lockdowns.
The Prime Minister can only feel his way through the difficult trade-offs between lives, livelihoods and hospital capacity and he’s repeatedly shown every jump in the R numbers of infections.
But there are no R numbers for jobs, no equivalent stream showing when a business owner will lose their life’s savings and life’s work and there’s no Downing Street unit scrutinising worst-case health scenarios and modelling families queueing at food banks, corporations planning mass redundancies and people contemplating suicide.
There, of course, have been numerous pandemics throughout history, which usually last about 1-3 years but took many lives and then ended and I don’t see any reason why this relatively mild one should be any worse, especially given that we at least learned to wash our hands and wear masks.
But what we do need to learn is to adapt to this virus and to condition our lifestyles and hygienic behaviours accordingly and you can thank the media, public health officials and most politicians for acting as though everyone is 80+ years old with comorbidities and at increased risk of dying, which has led to the panic.
Although I don’t know anyone who is panicking per se, but I do know many people who are simply fed up with the crisis and believe that it’s time to move on and get back to normal because really, there’s nothing we can do about it.