What a strange world we live in! Who would have thought that we’d be laid low by a flu-like virus in 2020? These are extraordinary times and – although some think there has been an overreaction – we need now to look out for each other to get through this tunnel and into the light.
Those who wondered how the country might unite after a Brexit slug-fest lasting four years might have joked last year – only a war, a plague or perhaps an alien invasion would do the trick. They are not laughing now. It is encouraging to see people helping others and political differences being put to one side even though the cost we expect to pay for our newfound unity will likely be steep.
The Chinese system of fear is better suited to such pandemics. Coronavirus is not a crisis that the freedom-loving Western democracies are well placed to respond to. The restrictions necessary to cope with it go against the grain. Our police are more used to a tap on the shoulder as a solution to fixing problems – not the truncheon behind the knees their Chinese counterparts have been manifesting to enforce curfews.
While Government stockpiling for Brexit has proven itself useful, in the UK there is a marked shortage of PPE for medical staff. There are not enough ventilators. The NHS has worked this out late and there is finally an effort underway to get sufficient ventilators made however we hear that there are civil servants messing up and the national ventilator manufacturing effort is being stymied by red tape and bureaucratic lethargy.
It has been claimed by a source in Westminster that James Dyson offered his services to Downing Street to produce ventilators some days ago, but his experience has not been good over the past days. Having had his teams working round the clock to come up with designs and solutions that can be produced very quickly using existing parts, his people have become pretty disillusioned by the response that HMG (the Cabinet Office) is taking. Dyson has witnessed sub-standard civil service leadership; civil servants out of their depth; unbelievably bureaucratic; a seeming lack of urgency; shifting objectives; stifling almost every initiative. Certainly no sense of “wartime effort.” Dyson has produced a couple of prototypes, but he is giving serious consideration to pulling his teams off the project. A sad commentary – the worst of Whitehall.
Let us hope that this situation changes soon.
The other massive issue the Government faces is providing liquidity quickly enough to save a large number of perfectly sound businesses whose sales have suddenly gone to zero – airlines, retailers, restaurants etc. The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been impressive, but it is the Banks who are left administering the various bailout schemes and they have been somewhat slower and more bureaucratic than is needed.
It is going to get a lot worse before it gets better for the UK. Let us pray that, as the sun begins to shine, our spike is nothing like our Italian friends who are experiencing something altogether more biblical. We live in hope.
P.S. Those of you who follow us from Twitter, we are experiencing difficulties with our Twitter account and are using the back-up account here. There was some issue with using multiple devices to access the Twitter account and Twitter wants to send an sms to a SIM we can’t find. We are told the account will resume service “in a few days”. Service will resume quicker if the Editor finds the SIM but he’s gone fishing and doesn’t seem to be too bothered.