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  • Lawrence Bailey

A year later, and what have we learned?

The topic of conversation during one of those online group chats that have become so familiar, was the impact on each of us when the first lockdown was announced a year ago.

I guess that this grim anniversary has prompted many of us to look back in askance in the same way.

Twelve months ago we found ourselves stoically queuing in barricaded supermarket car parks so that we could scour near-empty shelves.

As governments advisors talked in terms of 20,000 deaths being “a good result” and ministers trotted out inane wartime allusions, I recall being among those thinking that more attention should be spent on mundane stuff like the cleanliness of shopping trolleys. What did we plebs know, eh? It may seem overly harsh but from where I sit, what has passed for official strategy has been a catalogue of mistakes, misconceptions and miscalculations.

All right, you can allow for a certain amount of “there but for the Grace of God, etc”; but it was clear even then that Downing Street’s focus was on pandering to closed minds rather than closing borders. Things changed after Cummings’ departure, but not much.

Elsewhere, we had world leaders who not only dismissed the extent of the pandemic but disputed whether there was a pandemic at all.

Little wonder that so many felt there was no harm in sneaking in that last drink and mingling with mates before the shutters came down.

Well, we know how that all worked out – although we did manage to learn a few things along the way. For example:

1. There is no correlation between an ability to survive a COVID infection and the amount of toilet roll stashed in your loft.

2. “Asymptomatic” does not mean “immune”. Nor does it mean you can’t transmit the virus to people more vulnerable than yourself.

3. It takes less time to potty-train a toddler than it does to convince some people to finally accept that masks should cover both your mouth and nose.

4. “Eat Out to Help Out” probably helped no-one in the long run.

5. Anti-vaxxers generally have as much impact on public opinion as spit on concrete.

6. Track and trace is basically a massively expensive way of diverting public resources during a pandemic. Of course, it hasn’t been all bad. We’ve learned to listen to each other more. We enquire about each other’s wellbeing and we finish our messages with “Keep Safe”. And if there are those who still insist on wartime references then let us pray that the arrival of vaccines represents a meaningful truce in our battle rather than a temporary ceasefire

As the days grow longer and brighter, so do my hopes.


Vaccination must remain a matter of choice

I got an email a few days ago giving me significant grief for stating that people who refuse the COVID vaccine should be criminalised.

The accusation floored me - mainly because I’ve never once made such a suggestion. More to the point, I don’t actually hold that opinion.

What I wrote last month was “We each have a choice to make [about vaccination] but I’m sure we’d all prefer it to be an informed one”.

When I made the same point during a weekly pow-wow with associates, I was surprised how many of these normally liberal-minded individuals actually favour mandatory inoculation.

Although there is reportedly some debate at ministerial level about a compatibility of compulsory vaccination with human rights law, no-one actually wants to go down the route of legislation and test cases.

I suspect that market forces will eventually determine how things proceed. We already have cruise companies and airlines insisting on proof of vaccination before embarking. It’s highly likely that other sectors will follow suit.

It may be that the un-vaccinated become the new social pariahs, like smokers who are obliged by law to stand outside pubs.

I really hope though that things never come to that. We already have enough social divisions without inventing new ones.


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