13 days into this brave new world and you can see that the novelty of the Lockdown and social distancing is beginning to wear thin.
A week from now, the news that 3 weeks of this was just the start of something much longer will be beginning to sink in.
But by then the pain will already be less about being kept inside our homes. It will be more about how people can continue to live and the question of how businesses will survive an indefinite Lockdown, just so they can get to the end of the Lockdown and still exist.
There is a disaster unfolding behind the media coverage and focus on equipping and preparing the NHS to treat a significant number of critical-case Coronavirus Patients.
This real crisis is much bigger than many could comprehend, even if it was something that they could now visibly see.
Already there are businesses that have closed for the Lockdown that will never reopen. Others will close as the Lockdown continues. Some will survive until it is clear they cannot service a growing mountain of debt that accumulates daily, simply because the Government did not think through the implications of what a full Lockdown would mean on so much of our business sector and industry.
The Government has simply failed to comprehend how businesses and the people who own and run them need to be supported so that they will be there to provide services, products and employment for the many others who will need them when the time comes to restart.
Yet to hear the media and read the non-stop commentary wherever you look, the only game in town is ‘Protecting the NHS’.
Don’t get me wrong, we need the NHS to be fully equipped and ready to do the best for people that it can. But with Field Hospitals like the London Nightingale now open and others around the Country clearly earmarked for opening very soon, the political focus needs to move swiftly to the unseen crisis that is beginning to evolve across our Country.
The hard truth is that deaths that will sooner or later become inevitable anyway should really be a lower level priority against what is now set to become a very extensive list of problems that people attempting to live their lives are having to or soon will have to face.
It feels very unpalatable to even think, let alone say that you have to accept and be prepared to let some people die, so that the majority of others can continue to live.
The problem is that it is also the truth.
The Government has backed itself into a corner by implementing the Lockdown. There is no risk-free way out.
Coronavirus Testing will be too slow to be any help in reducing the time it will take to try and manage the process of infection for the whole population.
Using tools such as Immunity Certificates would create massive social problems – if the Government then used the force that would be necessary to keep people who haven’t had Coronavirus at home – which is what they would have to do if they let those who have had it are able to have lives and everyone else does everything they can to catch it, so they can do the same too.
Whilst no politician wants to hear it said of them that they deliberately let people die when some of them could be saved, the harsh reality is that if we are to get out of this Crisis and the Coronavirus Pandemic in the best shape possible, we must all accept that in the world we live in, a life isn’t life if a person cannot actually live.
It is difficult for some to understand this, because in the form of the personal tragedies that we see rolled out continually on TV and the stories of he NHS in crisis that we hear daily, Coronavirus has given the intrinsic fear of death that we all share both a face and a name. It has taken on a very visual and highly emotive form.
The reality is that people are going to die from Coronavirus with or without the Lockdown and it would be much healthier for people, the whole Country and our economy if the Lockdown was ended and we got life restarted as quickly as possible and then dealt with each case of Coronavirus and its respective knock-on effects as we go along.
The genuinely vulnerable members of our society who are likely to be most at risk will continue to be at the same level of risk until a vaccine has been identified, tested and administered to them.
The time that it would take as a minimum to vaccinate everyone – given what will be a worldwide demand – will simply be too long for any civilized Country to wait for whilst keeping a shutdown in place.
Our high-profile Politicians like to talk up the Crisis as if it is like fighting a war. In the Second World War when Campaigns such as Operation Overlord and the D-Day Landings were planned, Prime Ministers, Presidents and the advising Generals around them literally worked out how many lives they would have to sacrifice on the battlefield to get the job done, so that the wider populations of their Countries and the World itself would win the fight against oppression in the end.
Such responsibility and leadership in strategic thinking is required of the leaders that we have now. The Politicians have talked the talk to win power. Now they must walk the walk to enact that power and see this through.
The implications of the Lockdown would not have been nearly so bad, had the Government taken an even handed and fair approach to mitigating the impact of the imposed standstill on workers of every kind and businesses alike.
But they didn’t, and this means that how the end of the Lockdown and the restart of life is managed must take into consideration where things are right now and where they will be rather than where they were before it started, because this whole situation is evolving each and every day.
It’s time for the Lockdown to end now. It’s time for life to restart.
There is no perfect way to plan the fight against Coronavirus, or to put together a strategy for ending the Lockdown, letting life restart and managing cases of Coronavirus either now or thereafter. There are simply too many unknowns and variables within what is a live and evolving Crisis for that ever to be the way.
However, we can ask that the Politicians do their best, and in terms of ending the Lockdown now and getting life back on track, these are some of the key things that they can now do.
Notification of Coronavirus Symptoms
Perhaps the key factor or source of information that the Government needs going forward, is clear and decisive record of who has experienced Coronavirus Symptoms – even if no medical intervention has been involved.
- Upon first experiencing Coronavirus Symptoms, individuals should be able to Register using their individual identification data on the Government Portal.
- This responsibility to register would become that of parents, carers and guardians for children and vulnerable people
- Nobody should be able to claim Coronavirus Sickness Benefit without having registered first.
- In the first instance and until such time as it is confirmed whether Symptoms of Coronavirus could be suffered more than once, individuals would be able to claim only once,
- The data can then be used to distribute the Coronavirus Antibody Test once it is universally available and thereby technically available to all
- On completion of registration, the Government Portal should allocate a unique reference number for every individual to use to claim benefits such as Coronavirus Sick Pay and payment holidays
It will remain essential to keep resources flowing towards the NHS so that it can manage the critical stages of the Coronavirus related illness that some people will inevitable suffer – just as they are now.
Field Hospitals, Intensive Care Units, Ventilator numbers and the recruitment rate of staff will have to continue to rise until the natural infection rate and the number of people it will effect critically at any particular time has been reached.
This will not be long once the restart has begun. But there is likely to be a period of time where it doesn’t look like the NHS can cope and numbers of people are dying who might have been saved, had more resources been in place.
‘Protect the NHS’ is the Trojan horse argument that led to the shutdown as the chosen way to attempt to manage demand in the first place. It’s where the Government went fundamentally wrong.
- Local Trusts should set up Designated Reception Centres, separate to GP Surgeries and Hospital Reception areas used for other purposes
- Local dedicated helplines should be provided to field calls from those with symptoms
- Dedicated Ambulance provision should be put in place for Coronavirus sufferers
- The general emergency Ambulance fleet should be kept separate.
- Serious consideration should be given to requiring benefits claimants to report for duty as healthcare assistants, with full pay, work and training options to be offered after a qualifying or probationary period.
The Restart itself
The way to lift the shutdown isn’t to try and overcomplicate things by using terms such as calling it ‘gradual’ or ‘taking things in steps’, or anything else that even hints at there being some form of managed delay.
Whilst we might all like to think that the world as we knew it before March could just be switched back on at 9am on Monday morning it won’t happen no matter what we do. The time it will take those businesses still operating to return to full operation will take a lot longer than it took them to shut down. That is before you take into consideration the natural trepidation that many people are going to have as a result of the negativity and scaremongering that has taken place on the part of the media.
Even now, barely a fortnight in to the Lockdown, things will have changed markedly and they will continue to do so each and every day until the new norm for life begins.
People and businesses are going to work differently, travel differently and think differently. So the resumption of participating in everyday life will take time under its own steam, without anyone or anything else being involved.
Social distancing in areas where people are usually in close proximity will be a good measure to retain formally, even though people are likely to keep their distance for some time as it has already become an accepted part of life.
Even if social distancing plays no further active part in dealing with Coronavirus – given that there are very recent suggestions that the Virus can remain active in air for up to three hours – it will help address any social awkwardness that will exist for some people once the Media’s negative messaging campaign is over and done.
- Everyone working who has unable to work because they have caught Coronavirus should be able to rely on having Coronavirus Sick Pay
- The Sick Pay should last a calendar month from the date of registration
- There should not be a laborious process of application involving claims for Universal Credit or applications via Jobcentres or the DWP.
- The Coronavirus sick pay should be claimed on behalf of employees by employers and paid as part of the monthly PAYE process
- The self employed and/or contract workers should be able to claim their sick pay back as part of their next Annual Tax Return.
- The reference number allocated at registration should be used by employers for PAYE purposes and on individual Tax Returns.
Fundamentally, it is essential that every member of the population is treated like an adult, trusted to do the right thing and given no excuse to do otherwise. To support everyone, the Government must ensure that all practical issues people may experience if and when they suffer with Coronavirus has been mitigated against adequately and given added value as an incentive too.
Put simply, if there’s no way people can lose out, they will do the right thing.
- Any individual, their parent, carer or guardian will register Coronavirus Symptoms using the Government Portal
- Upon registration, individuals should be required to immediately self-isolate and remain isolated for a minimum of 14 days
- Upon experiencing escalating symptoms, individuals should report to local NHS designated reception centres or call designated helplines if transport or an ambulance is required
- All domestic bills, rents, leases, loans, interest and debt repayments to stopped for a month as a ‘Payment Holiday’
- Individuals to use the reference number provided when they registered with the Government Portal to confirm they are on a legitimate payment holiday with debtors or those they should normally pay.
- A payment of approx £100 per week to be payable to every individual Registered in the ‘Coronavirus Window’ for a period of four weeks to cover food and essentials
- The vulnerable have to be allowed to make their own decision about the risk, about remaining in isolation, or returning to ‘normal life’. They should not be pressured to go either way.
- Benefits Claimants without medical conditions and unemployed should be tasked with providing the support currently provided by volunteers.
- Businesses of all sizes should be protected from the impact of the Lockdown for the period of time it will take things to return to or find the new normal, once the Lockdown has been lifted.
- Where necessary support should be applied retrospectively to the 23rdof March 2020, if not the point in time before that when levels of business within marketplaces are recognised as having began to decline in response to the early stages of the Coronavirus Crisis.
- All businesses should have a 3-6 months ‘payment holiday’ from rents, leases, mortgages, repayments, interest, debt
- Heavy fines and/or jail terms should be immediately awarded by a District Judge without trial or appeal, to any Creditor, Company, Director or Partner thereof refusing to facilitate the ‘payment holiday’ and/or attempting to recover any related sums using other or additional debt devices or levying additional payments or raising prices relating to that relationship
For the duration of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Government should intervene to ensure that the disposal of bodies is facilitated without delay, without price gouging or profiteering and is provided on the basis of a same-level, community service for all.
- The Government should set a fixed, realistic cost for a ‘standard’ funeral with a transparent minimal fixed margin and no additional payments being made for anything not specified
- The Government should pay the cost of ALL Funerals at the standard rate for the duration of the Coronavirus Pandemic
- Local Authorities should administer the allocation of care of the deceased and funerals to local undertakers on a take-it-in-turns basis
- Local Authorities should administer payments to undertakers and make them immediately
- All funerals should be provided on the same basis and not open to change or being ‘upgraded’ by additional payments from families etc
- Funeral Insurance payouts to either be split with the cost of the standard funeral being returned to the Government and any outstanding balance returned to the family or estate, or simply paid out to the family or estate
Whilst free society needs a free press, the current approach, lack of ethical standards and reliance on dressing up subjective opinion as news requires that Government take a different approach and one that doesn’t play into the system as it is.
- The forward briefing, advance copies of Government speeches and embargoed press releases need to stop.
- Regulation needs to be introduced that requires news to be news, and for the mainstream media to promote the wider concept of the principle of charity in all things, rather than constantly looking for every opportunity to create negative spin.