Tuesday 14 July 2020

Dangling on the hook

It was announced at the weekend that the UK government is to launch a major campaign to promote weight loss given the propensity of Covid-19 to be worse in people who are obese. Pro-active promotion of healthy living is always a good idea, although I could have sworn that it was anathema to the Tories, who traditionally dismiss such initiatives as being typical of the ‘nanny state’ which should leave people to make their own decisions. Perhaps that was a different Conservative Party or maybe my memory is failing me.
What the initiative tells us though is that the English government has no intention of ‘defeating’ the coronavirus, despite all Johnson’s bold rhetoric about ‘sending it packing’ just a few short weeks ago. Coupled with the reckless approach to easing restrictions, it is clear that they are actively planning to allow another peak during the autumn/ winter and are merely trying to get the population match-fit to reduce the death toll. Their sole objective is to ensure that the number of people hospitalised is within the capacity of the NHS to treat them, and in adopting that policy they are effectively accepting that there will be thousands more deaths in the coming months.
It’s a huge contrast with the approach in Scotland, where the goal is the virtual elimination of the virus, a goal which now appears to be in reach. And Scotland is not an exception; similar approaches are being adopted in most European countries. The Scottish First Minister has been careful not to propose any sort of restrictions on people travelling from England, although she’s been equally careful not to rule it out. If we get to the stage – which looks increasingly inevitable – where new cases in Scotland relate entirely, or almost entirely, to people entering the country whilst the virus is in wide circulation in England, it’s hard to see how the Scottish government can continue to pursue its policy without imposing some restrictions.
Where that leaves us in Wales is an open question. Whilst his words suggest that the First Minister has the same goal as Nicola Sturgeon, (and I do believe that his natural instinct is to pursue that goal) he is also much keener on avoiding divergence from England. The situation is, of course, different; the border is more porous, more people get their news and information from London-based sources, there is less history of difference in law and policy. Yet, sooner or later, he will have to face up to one simple fact: following the same goal as Scotland using the same methods and approach as England is doomed to fail. He will have to choose between his instinctive wish to preserve the lives of the people for whom he is responsible and his instinctive wish to preserve and strengthen the union between Wales and England. I don’t know which way he’ll jump, but I’m certain that he will put off having to make that choice for as long as he possibly can. Hoping that something will turn up to let him off the hook isn’t good government.


Anonymous said...

Political borders are rather difficult to close. As for physical ones, I think it's already been made clear that there are no such.

Likewise, if you want to restrict people moving into one particular area you also have to stop people moving out of that area. I'm not sure this will go down well with the people living in Scotland, they have livelihoods to protect and lives to lead.

Viruses have no respect for territories or boundaries, eradication is not possible unless you plan on living in a highly controlled environment for evermore.

Perhaps this is your dream for an independent Wales.

John Dixon said...

Where to start?

"Political borders are rather difficult to close" Utter nonsense! All human borders are political, and any political border can be closed if the will is there and the resources are available.

"...if you want to restrict people moving into one particular area you also have to stop people moving out of that area." Based on what rationale, exactly? Disease control depends on stopping people travelling from an infected area into one free of infection; there is no need to stop people travelling from a disease-free area to an infected one (although why they would want to is another matter). Reciprocity is an extremely silly assumption to make.

"...eradication is not possible unless you plan on living in a highly controlled environment for evermore." Really? Are you aware that smallpox is caused by a virus? Eradication may not be easy or quick, and having a vaccine is a key element, but to declare that a virus cannot be eradicated is to ignore historical fact. But then, of course, 'facts' are optional for English nationalists like yourself.