One of the downsides of being locked-down in social isolation is that it allows too much time to watch, or listen to, the news broadcasts, and to ruminate over what one sees and hears. Initially, the primary focus of interest is on what is happening on the medical front: are the numbers of infections and deaths plateauing? Is there any progress with developing a vaccine and a reliable anti-body test? What is happening where supplies of personal protective equipment and ventilators are concerned? The medical reports are increasingly eliding into wrenching accounts of the men and women who have died and the grief of those left behind, as photographs, brief biographies and interviews with relatives and friends transform the bald statistics into an appreciation that each number represents a shattering personal loss for the dead person’s loved ones. And day after day there are, according to the daily statistics, nearly a thousand more of those losses. Worse, we know that those statistics are, whether deliberately or not, seriously understating the true cost. The more one hears, the longer one spends thinking about it, the angrier one is liable to become.
Professor Anthony Costello, Professor of Global Health at University College in London, is suggesting that UK may well need to brace itself for at least 40,000 of those losses, many of which would have been avoided by proper planning. While Government Ministers have been ostentatiously standing on their doorsteps applauding the NHS staff on Thursday evenings, substantially more than 50 of those NHS staff having been dying painful, suffocating deaths. As a result of government negligence and incompetence, many hospitals are due to run out of personal protective equipment this weekend. That can only lead to more of those wrenching deaths. It is being suggested that our Brexit-loving Tory government has been far too fixated on the nirvana of a no-deal Brexit to bother their heads either with planning for a pandemic, or with reading the writing on the wall when the first signs of the inevitable onslaught of Covid-19 became apparent. Forty thousand deaths seem likely to be the result.
Boris and his colleagues are very fond of using the terminology of battle and war, and of invoking ‘the spirit of Word War II’. Boris clearly sees himself as a latter-day Winston Churchill. One of the characteristics of World War II, and of many subsequent wars and genocides, has been a desire for justice in the aftermath, a sense that those culpably responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians should be held to account for their actions, or, in some instances, their negligent lack of action. The invocation of parallels with World War II should logically extend to what happened in its immediate aftermath. Where the ‘war’ is only a grandiose metaphor, ways other than war crimes tribunals need to be found for holding the main perpetrators to account. But they would be well advised to be careful what they wish for.