‘We can do better than this’

AS MUCH as I was tempted to write about Education, Sport & Culture’s decision to put it to the States that it be entrusted to determine the pathway for pause and review, I feel far more personally drawn to wax lyrical about coronavirus.

Don't act like a doomsday prepper, leaving the shelves bare for the vulnerable who can’t stretch their pension to go long on toilet rolls. (MBLifestyle/Shutterstock)
Don't act like a doomsday prepper, leaving the shelves bare for the vulnerable who can’t stretch their pension to go long on toilet rolls. (MBLifestyle/Shutterstock)

Therefore I will quickly get ESC done and dusted by asking why a caretaker committee has the arrogance to seek the endorsement of a dying Assembly to begin work that is patently going to be specified by new politicians after the election. I fully support Matt and the team staying on for the next couple of months and crossing some Ts and dotting a few Is on stuff that has been left to the last minute in respect of sport and culture, but as for education, I suggest they just keep it ticking along and do no harm until a new team can pick it up.

Certainly, I can’t see much point in engaging with unions and teachers on future plans when it is patently clear that the current ESC has no authority to promise anything or to make any deals. Should the Assembly decide to back ESC in anything other than keeping the ship afloat until the election, then it will be another example of how this Assembly just doesn’t represent the majority of the community, nor does it have any intention of healing the rifts and divisions mostly caused by States decisions in the first place.

And talking about the community, I see the same divisions beginning to appear as we discuss Covid-19.

For some this is a terrible threat, in fact a mortal threat, and it will take the whole community changing its habits to prevent the unnecessary deaths of our most vulnerable.

To others, it’s nothing worse than the flu and anyway we seem to be overburdened with the elderly so look on the bright side and just keep washing your hands under the tap for a few seconds no more than once a day.

And to yet another group it’s an opportunity to act like a doomsday prepper, emptying the shops by stockpiling at home and leaving the shelves bare for the vulnerable who just can’t stretch their pension to go long on toilet rolls. I’m pretty sure if we had USA-style relaxed gun laws we would be seeing a run on assault weapons, just in case.

Come on, Guernsey, you can do better and be better than this.

If we over-plan for the virus and the outcome is that no one dies, then social media will be full of people howling what a waste of time, money and opportunity that was. Just like climate change mitigation, if it turns out that the science was wrong but we end up with a much nicer planet, would all the effort have been wasted?

If, as the World Health Organisation is saying, more than 3% of those infected will die, are we really suggesting a one-in-30 mortality rate is similar to the flu? Or even at 1%, is a one-in-100 mortality rate acceptable to you?

And if, as in Italy, a fifth end up in hospital and half of those in intensive care, does that sound like flu to you? Do we even have the facilities to cope? Even if we do, will they only be available by sending other people home to free up beds and to cancel countless surgeries for the same reason?

Despite the States of Guernsey having divided us over the years with waste, transport and education strategies, to name but a few, we shouldn’t let them grind us down. We are a community and we must pull together on this one for our common good.

Let this be one of those moments when we actually consider others. I know there’s no law to make us do it yet, although I expect one will come along after every right has been won for us by the bleeding heart liberals in our government, but if even one person dies, will that not be one too many?

There really are people frightened by this virus and it would be of enormous comfort to them to know everything is being done and every sacrifice willingly made to prevent its spread.

It could be your mum and dad, or your nan and pop. And there is, of course, a positive side to this in that you will now have an excuse for not visiting them. You certainly wouldn’t want to bring the virus with you and that’s the only reason you can’t pop down to clear the gutters.

There will be hype and fingers crossed that it will all just fade away as the weather warms up (but they have got it in hot countries), but nonetheless, as I’ve hinted before, better to do too much than too little.

It is a little ironic that some of the high-risk demographic are already self-isolated and have been for years. There will be people on this island who don’t see another human being from one week to another. Perhaps if, during this panic, you have to self-isolate and experience the frustrations it brings, you will give some thought to those for whom it is their natural existence and in better, future days you might pop in and see someone who doesn’t get many visitors?

But that’s in the future. Not now.

I will declare an interest in that, although not elderly, I certainly tick all the other boxes for pre-existing medical conditions and, though I may not fear my end, I do want a nice, comfortable end, asleep in my own bed. The virus doesn’t offer me that.

So, my friends, I will be personally grateful for every sacrifice you make to keep me safe.

Wash your hands. Cough into tissues and discard carefully. I know that culturally we like to cough and wipe our noses on the sleeves of our Guernseys, but just for this crisis buy yourself some disposable tissues.

Think about travelling and socialising.

Don’t loot all the shops.

And keep away from my house!

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