Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Coining new words

Apparently, millimate isn’t a word, largely because no-one's considered it to be particularly useful to date. However, the word’s non-existence doesn’t mean it’s not an accurate description of the outcome of the pandemic in the UK to date – with around 65,000 excess deaths out of 66,000,000 people, the UK’s population has been roughly millimated. According to the PM, this is some sort of great achievement of which we should all be proud, presumably in the sense that it’s better than being centimated (also not a word), let alone decimated. And thus far, no other government has succeeded in millimating its population, so the UK is achieving the world leadership status which the PM craves.
That there will be an increase in the rate of infection after yesterday’s series of announcements is surely beyond dispute; the only area for debate is by how much. The problem with changing so many things at once is that it will be difficult to know which changes are the ones which are leading to the increase, as the scientists have been quick to point out, and that will make it difficult to re-impose the right controls, even supposing that the PM has any intention of so doing. His haste to get back to ‘normal’ and end the daily on-the-record lie fests (despite the death rate being higher now than it was when they started) suggest that his real intention is to return to the herd immunity strategy which he seems to have favoured all along. Perhaps he even believes, in best Trumpian fashion, that not having a government minister announcing the numbers of deaths and infections every day means that they haven’t actually happened. The utter inadequacy of the test-and-trace strategy which has been put in place inevitably means that many infections will go undetected until the numbers are significant.
I can understand the political motivation for his government seeking to agree air corridors to a range of countries and allow people to holiday abroad. Allowing people to return to the UK without facing 14 days’ quarantine makes it likelier that they will want to travel. And given the better performance of those target countries in getting the virus under control, I can see why we might all think that we’d be safer abroad than we are here (although I don’t expect the government to use that particular sales pitch in support of its approach). I can’t, for the life of me though, see why those other countries would be in such a rush to allow people in from a country like the UK which clearly doesn’t have the pandemic under control and which has such an inadequate system for checking people.
Whilst the Welsh government’s approach has been better on the whole (and in relation to yesterday’s announcements shows signs of having been more prepared to listen to the experts), it’s been far from perfect. I can’t honestly say that the Welsh system for testing and tracing looks much better than the English one at present. That makes it right to be more cautious about lifting restrictions until the system is properly up and running, but it’s no excuse at all for a proper system not being in place already – they’ve had three months to sort it. The bigger problem we have in Wales is that, for a variety of reasons including porous borders, a media which doesn’t adequately explain the distinctions, and economic control over furlough and other schemes remaining in Westminster, observance of the Welsh rules is likely to decay rapidly as well. The weaknesses of devolution compared to independence will become increasingly obvious.
Perhaps most worrying of all yesterday was the PM’s reliance on people applying what he called common sense. Common sense isn’t as common or consensual as he seems to think. After all, he is a man who thought that Dominic Cummings was applying common sense by driving on a 60-mile round trip to test his eyesight. If that sort of common sense is what we’re now all depending on, then the word centimate is likely to fall into common usage sooner than we might wish.

1 comment:

dafis said...

You say - "I can’t, for the life of me though, see why those other countries would be in such a rush to allow people in from a country like the UK which clearly doesn’t have the pandemic under control and which has such an inadequate system for checking people." And that sums it up.

I was planning a trip to the Med in September and there are positive signs of some kind of holiday industry being revived in Spain,Italy,Greece,possibly Croatia and others coming in a few weeks later. I had been concerned about reentering the UK and being confined to barracks for 14 days or more. Now I am concerned about returning to the UK despite Wales appearing to be more controlled, less headstrong in the urge to dispose of controls.

As for testing and tracing, they, like quarantine, are becoming fashionable long after the Covid horse bolted. OK we were confronting a new challenge but the arrogant posturing of the Westminster mob - "world class responses and systems" etc all turning into a soggy mess instead of a resilient shield - has delivered a Class A shambles where anything that's right is more by luck than judgement.

If this is UK government at its "world class" best then I shudder to think what we'll get when they go a bit off the boil.