Coronavirus covid 19 Our View
Our view on Coronavirus Covid19
My blog of 18th March deals with the impact of Covid19 on housing and especially the private rented sector. This blog deals with more general issues. The comments I make here may be more contentious for some people. I make no apologies for that.
Coronavirus and the assault on civil liberties
Firstly, I am deeply worried by the way the government has curtailed civil liberties in many democracies – and that people have blithely accepted these changes. For example, telling old people they are not allowed out, the restrictions on sunbathing (even if one keeps 2 metre distance), the demand to keep exercise to once a day (again, what’s the problem if 2 metres distance is kept).
And now we see Hungary has effectivly declared martial law. (Hungary has been drifting this way for a long time, of course).
These, for me, are steps that seem truly Orwellian. We would be far better off trusting people to keep away from people who are vulnerable to getting ill from this virus and for those who treat the old and already sick to take great care to not infect them and to keep a safe distance from all other people.
People are not stupid – they know what to do and what not to do. I was going to visit my elderly parents at Easter. I decided not to, for now.
Nonsensical restrictions must be lifted as soon as possible – and people trusted to do the right things. Most do! A small minority won’t and the threat of fines and penalties- and the shutting of parks and taping off of park benches) will not change their behaviour one iota.
I’m appalled when I see the UK’s police wasting their time (and far exceeding their remit) flying drones over moorland to shame single people and couples for the “sin” of walking on the fells. I’m astounded when I see them using police tape to prevent people using park benches and setting up road blocks. And I’m saddened that the majority of the Great British Public accept this willingly, like sheep.
None of these restrictions actually make sense at all.
If you are stopped doing any of these things, I suggest you politely tell the officer that, as they seem to have a lot of spare time on their hands, there are many fields with crops rotting in them – perhaps they should be there instead. I have promised to do this when I am stopped. I may end up being arrested. I am ready for this.
Coronavirus and the media frenzy
Secondly, I am astounded by what seems to be an over-the-top media frenzy and seeming reluctance to tell any good news stories about the virus.
There are, in fact, a lot of reasons to be positive. For example, the fact that for 95% of people, the coronavirus is not serious is rarely repeated in the media and few interviews are done with people who have got it and /or recovered. There was nothing much in the media until March 20th on how much of East Asia has already got back on its feet again. Even now, you hear little about this.
The main media, in trying to bid up the panic to get clicks or viewers have become very selective with statistics and fail to put them in any context. For example, in any one day, there are 100 deaths directly caused by air pollution! See link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/public-health-england-publishes-air-pollution-evidence-review
Of course this figure will rise, and we need to be vigilant and keep “social distancing” (as it is awfully called), but the thing has to be kept in perspective.
In Italy, Bloomberg reported on 20th March, that the age of death from coronavirus was 79.5 and 99% of those who died had other serious underlying health conditions. Again, this is rarely reported. Sure, there are young, otherwise fit people who die from Covid19 too. But a small number also die of flu and other common diseases every year. It is tragic, yes, but it is not unusual.
Turning back to the issue of policing, only when retired Supreme Court judge, Lord Sumption, criticised the heavy handed nature of the UK’s policing on the matter of drones and road blocks did the BBC, (who surely ought to now be renamed the BorisBC), bother to challenge the police at all. But the police have barely apologised and the majority of the British Public seem to accept the ludicrous, pointless restrictions. (Why close a large park so that people are forced onto more crowded pavements?).
Coronavirus and the impact on the economy
Thirdly, it is clear that this coronavirus will be around for some considerable time. Most of us will have to get it at some point, but we will almost all get better and get on with our lives.
But the government has had to effectively crash the economy to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed and to protect doctors from having to make admittedly horrible decisions about who gets treated based on age and other factors. This would make sense if it was for a short time and if mass testing could be carried out.
But we need to be mindful that the impact of crashing the economy (in order to manage the casualty rate) is that in the long term, we are at serious risk of having no money to pay for a healthcare service worth the name in the future or much else besides. And surely old people and the already sick will be the first to suffer in future as health and other services are cut in the future.
People like Katie Hopkins were the first off the mark. On 16th March she asked whether the economic cost of the almost total shut down was worth it. She was predictably hammered online, as was Tim “Wetherspoons” Martin, who did not see a good reason to close his Wetherspoons pubs, providing social distancing was maintained in them and the pubs were frequently cleaned.
Then, on 21st March, more people began to ask similar questions. For example, in The Times on 21 March, Matthew Parris wrote a piece, “Crashing the Economy Will Also Cost Lives – Just Like the virus, impoverishment kills, and locking down the elderly might have been a drastic but fairer solution” .
In the same edition, Philip Aldrick wrote how “There are economic consequences to saving lives on a mass scale”.
Matthew Parris asked whether, the next time a virus comes along, if we will again shut the economy to protect our very old and sick population.
Think about it – in the post World War 2 period and pre-social media and 24 hour news channels, life expectancy was maybe 10 years less than today. Back then, few people stumbled into old age with a host of conditions that we can now treat. If the coronavirus had come then, maybe the death rate, instead of being 1%, may have barely been 0.1%. Would we have even considered closing the economy with that level of death rate? The answer must surely be “No”. Should we do so at a 1% death rate, when the people who are going to suffer from the shut down most in the long term, will also be those old and sick who we are so desperate to protect now? These are tough choices.
On 1 April, the media reported one study which said that 800,000 businesses are at risk of closing, for good, within a week. With that, will come maybe 5 million unemployed. The numbers are staggering. Plus a huge debt pile for future generations.
The fact is government is clearly weeks, if not months away from having a mass testing programme. So it must decide now to ease the lock down immediately, before the damage done to people’s lives is so serious that it will last for generations.
We have heard from one study how even just a drop of 6.4% in GDP will lead to more deaths in the long run than from the coronavirus. We are probably already well past that point already
Surely it is time to do an about-turn and ease this ludicrous lock down.
Coronavirus and long term health and other policies
Fourthly, once this is over, surely the world must act together to close the so called “wet markets” – an abominable word – where MARS, SARS and now Covid-19 all seem to have originated. Help for poorer countries must be given, if they struggle to do this on their own. We must also educate people not to eat from the meat of “weird species”.
Back home, we must reduce the numbers of people whose “underlying conditions” have been caused by their own lifestyle choices. as this just adds to the burden in pandemics like this one. The government must support and subsidise healthy lifestyles – such as junior sports and cycling to work. My own son’s junior football team struggles for cash to survive. Government must help more.
We must ban ALL fat foods and all promotions of alcohol and gambling that saturate our media.
The government can afford to do all of this. It’s just proven that oodles of cash can be made available when needed. It must act to improve the health of the nation and it must not be deflected by the pleas of the food industry and gambling businesses.
The coronavirus winners
Fifthly, and this is very contentious indeed. Some people are asking who will be the winners from this and even whether the coronavirus was manufactured by the Americans / the Chinese / The Russians or if there are more sinister groups who will benefit at the end of all this.
I don’t know, but when the banks / governments have seized your home and the business you work for at knock down cost, the organisations who tend to be left standing, owning more assets and refinancing government debt are the merchant banks (and possibly also China, who are now interestingly (some would say, strangely) well on the way to having a fully functioning economy).
It is a worrying fact that the likes of Goldman Sachs likes to get senior people crossing over into government in other senior positions. Our Chancellor is an ex Goldman man. So is Mario Draghi, the ECB boss at the time of the 2008 crash. Interestingly, both said more or less the same words, “We will do whatever it takes…”. Their former employers will be watching on from the sidelines.
I hope these points make people think a little harder about the coronavirus and how it being presented and being tackled, whether the policy approaches are right, who stands to benefit, the role of the media and most of all the impact on your liberty. People should really be asking questions. Instead of saying that awful phrase “stay safe”, they should be asking their friends and loved ones to “stay sane and ensure that their hard won liberties are soon restored”.
See our blog last week for comments about how Covid19 this will impact housing and especially the private rented sector.
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