‘Think of the many’

WHAT should we do with the old and vulnerable when the lockdown ends?

 (Picture by Peyker/Shutterstock)
(Picture by Peyker/Shutterstock)

Lock them away and let them out into the wild on a drip-by-drip basis that won’t overwhelm the (or is it ‘our’?) Princess Elizabeth Hospital, or take the survival-of-the-fittest option and just let them all out?

I was having an online conversation with a young, fit and probably suffering from attention deficit disorder acquaintance who was quick to point out that the most affected have been near the end of their life anyway. This view to justify his very clear desire to be immediately allowed out from his incarceration is probably not the majority view but I suspect it is the view of a sizeable minority who are probably literally pulling their hair out as the lockdown continues.

The moral dilemma is best articulated by Spock in the Wrath of Khan: ‘Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.’

At this moment in time the needs of the many seem to have been put on hold for the foreseeable future and at risk for a considerable time thereafter.

In my own family I am already seeing how the pressure of lockdown is starting to bear down on them and as yet none of them has seen a reduction in their income. How must it be for those facing the same pressures but also having to cope with more severe ‘new normal’ conditions such as losing their job or even having to lay off treasured employees to be able to survive?

I may not be old, or at least that old, but I am a Covid-19 ‘vulnerable’. The fault is entirely my own for not treating my body over the years as the temple I should have done. Therefore I take a lot of responsibility for protecting myself from the plague. I certainly would not want to see my grandson denied the interaction with his friends or, more importantly to me (less so to him), losing out on his education just to keep me safe when I can lock myself down for a year with no real problem at all.

As Deputy St Pier has said, we have both a health crisis and an economic crisis, which will last far longer and potentially hurt us more. Could the cure turn out to be worse than the disease? That question must be keeping our leadership awake at night and wild horses couldn’t make me change places with them.

I have complete faith in Dr Brink’s handling of the health crisis and I know that Deputy St Pier can manage the economic crisis. My fear now is that Dr Brink will remain ‘in charge’ for too long and the health crisis will stay the main driver when really the economic crisis has taken over as the most destructive to our community.

Anecdotal evidence tells me that the old and vulnerable, while mostly doing their bit, are not the easiest people when it comes to taking lockdown advice. The fear of losing independence and human interaction has made it hard for some to stay indoors and stay safe. We can be a pretty stubborn lot.

And that’s why I want to ask my reader (who I assume is old, crinkly and Covid-19 vulnerable) to let the powers-that-be know that you are perfectly prepared to lock down for as long as needs be if it helps let a lot more people get back to work and some sort of normality.

Let’s be honest, some of our industries are going to have the most awful 2020 and many businesses will never be the same again. The hospitality industry as an example has the most dire future in front of it. If there is a tiny grain of hope for hotels it is that the good folk of Guernsey will take stay-cations this year now that the rest of the world is closed to them.

But stay-cations can only happen after lockdown is lifted. And lifted while the weather is still good. If locking me and my peers away for a long period aids the unlocking then I say do it. We can take it.

I also want to help calm down anyone who thinks that our economy is in freefall and that huge States borrowing will sink us even faster. When Deputy St Pier was annoying everyone by stealthily increasing taxes and charges, and annoying deputies and civil servants by demanding savings and rather than blowing the cash was squirrelling it away for a rainy day we now realise he was acting in a fiscally prudent way. It was as though his future self had travelled back in time to warn him that dark days lay ahead. We are going to take a hit and borrowing will be extensive but how worse it could have been if our reserves just didn’t exist. Who would have thought he was right all along and perhaps the progressive deputies with their expensive pet projects were in fact wrong?

Talking of progressive deputies, the lowest I have felt during this entire lockdown was listening last week to the virtual States of Guernsey. After weeks of positivity everywhere including peace and quiet, clean fresh air, lots of people walking and cycling, an obvious upsurge in community spirit and rainbows everywhere as evidence of the ‘new normal’, I was severely let down by the States Assembly.

No ‘new normal’ there. Just the same old, same old, as though nothing had changed. Ridiculous speeches full of repetition and deviation which would never be allowed under the rules of Just A Minute and worst of all the pettiness and sniping was still in evidence. It was also clear that many deputies are determined to hold onto ‘power’ by refusing to let projects that can now be classified as ‘nice to have when Covid-19 is over’ die a natural death.

I’m quietly waiting for a policy letter which will create a proper Executive Controlling Committee to take over the leadership from the Assembly and lead us through this to the promised land. Hopefully it will materialise. And if that committee wants to lock me away for a year to let others out sooner then I’m all for it and I guess that many of my peers will give exactly the same pledge.

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