Once more (too slowly) unto the breach . . .
OPINION: Cometh the hour, cometh the man? Not in the UK’s case. Boris Johnson and his Government are once again latecomers in their country’s hour of need.
Johnson isn’t the only global leader forced to introduce a second national lockdown amid a resurgence of Covid-19. But his failure of leadership is among the worst because of the time wasted peering at unhappy scenarios through rose-tinted reading glasses.
Even as the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies was warning that the foreshadowed 85,000 deaths over the coming winter had been emphatically overtaken as a plausible prediction, he was scorning firm advice for a two-week lockdown.
It may be human to trudge towards an unhappy decision but this was less a case of fending off the evil day of another lockdown, than of spectacularly worsening it.
* Covid-19: Boris Johnson ignored clear advice to do short term lockdown
* Covid-19: UK unveils stricter coronavirus lockdown rules, new alert level system
* Covid-19: ‘Cases are increasing, deaths will follow’: Summer of fun over for Europe
You can only portray delusion as undaunted spirit for so long.
The prospect of a calamitous failure of hospital services being mere weeks away has forced a dismal 27 days lockdown. The nation enters this not only with Covid-19 infections surging, but doing so from a spectacularly higher baseline than would have been the case had it acted even a fortnight earlier.
There, as here, the first UK lockdown, in March, was no easy thing. But in the northern hemisphere at least it was held in cheering springtime weather.
This one will be cold, grey and doubly dispiriting.
All the harder, then, to attain the unity of purpose and discipline upon which all meaningful Covid measures require.
And this, in turn, raises the spectre of the infection rate remaining stubbornly high, in which case the stay-at-home order could be extended beyond December 2.
It’s understandable that there’s talk about “saving Christmas’’ and of course that is ardently to be desired. But it cannot become an imperative; not even for the considerable economic reasons. This is a time for the nation to keep its eye on the prize and though New Zealanders may be growing weary of hearing this message, it remains true there, as here: the best economic response is first and foremost an effective health response.
Even if the UK’s lockdown rules are faithfully followed, there seem to be areas of vulnerability through the tolerances permitted.
The country hasn’t opted for the tougher curfews of Germany, France and Belgium. Even more strikingly, schools, colleges and universities may stay open.
People can’t hibernate but if ever there was a period where they may wish to have that ability, the UK seems to be entering it.
This is hardly a matter that New Zealand is going to view dispassionately, from afar. Many of our own loved expatriates are caught in this horrid scenario.
Testing though it is for the citizenry, and maddeningly belated though the response has been, there will be another group of Kiwis in another country who may almost be feeling envious.
The United States remains the land of the unbitten bullet. It’s on a trajectory which, unless dramatically changed by this week’s election, will continue to stampede down a path of unspeakable disease and death.