It is not too early to make a first assessment of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic upon our local community. While expected fatalities may be small in statistical terms, it is the vulnerability of the older generation aged 70+ that constitutes the greatest threat and therefore the greatest concern to government.
From the beginning, this concern has been that the NHS would be overwhelmed and unable to find the capacity to cope with the influx of infected cases. The UK’s initial strategy therefore was to flatten the curve of admissions, but the recent rapid advance in the number of cases has forced a U-turn towards the policy of suppression.
The present lock-down will result in dire economic consequences, whatever the extent of financial mitigation that the chancellor may offer to businesses. Smaller concerns liable for business rates of less than £12,000 have been made exempt for the last year and they also stand to receive £3,000 assistance from government. Now a package of measures has been announced of £330 billion, to be made available as loan finance to larger concerns, and to support incomes through the crisis.
Nevertheless, businesses will fail, jobs will be lost and economic hardship will be felt by working people and their families. I feel uncomfortable that the nation as a whole is being held in thrall to my generation and that younger people are being required to pay the price for our longevity. I wonder whether the economic, social and cultural cost of shutting off the economy is worthwhile, even if I personally have to pay the price.
Apart from the suicidal economic destruction, the social and cultural costs are enormous and not easily reversed or recovered from. The isolation stemming from “social distancing” will contribute to mental stress and illness. The closure of places of recreation will destroy social cohesion.
The cancellation by voluntary organisations of community gatherings, whether for bingo, U3A meetings, the cinema or whatever, will discourage elderly volunteers from taking up the reins again when it is all over. And a new breed of volunteer is simply not stepping forward to shoulder the work.
If the real question is the shortage of hospital beds, is it not possible for free ventilators or respirators to be issued to each suffering household, or treatment administered in an alternative supervised environment outside of hospitals?
It just seems incredible that the globally interdependent economy should be sacrificed or at least seriously jeopardised for the sake of such a small proportion of the population, of which I am one, at risk of dying as opposed to experiencing flu-like discomfort.
The end result, played out over several years perhaps, will be general immunisation from the virus (the principle of herd immunity) so the quicker this is achieved the safer the population at large will become.
Image Credits: Edmund Bird .