I’ve been receiving a great deal of unsolicited advice, both face to face and by email.
On exiting the Parliament I was accosted by a fellow wearing a sandwich- board who advised me to repent because resisting Covid19 was useless, it being God’s judgement upon us.
A few paces later, an elderly lady told me that closing down the economy to try and beat the pandemic was folly, on the grounds that it was a natural phenomenon designed to strengthen humanity by culling the weak and infirm!
They say that a crisis brings out the best in us -and clearly it does: just look at the number of people volunteering and checking-up on vulnerable neighbours. On the other hand those two cheery souls might find a more useful outlet for their energy. It also brings out behaviour of the worst sort as evidenced by the hoarders who have cleared supermarket shelves.
Much of the advice that constituents offer me, is given in the expectation that I will pass it on to ministers, and I have done so, but forgive me for choosing not always to do so. For example, I thought that rather too much information was offered by the fellow who emailed me instructions on how to get-by without loo paper, and I’ve kept that one to myself.
Quite a few have emailed me to say that the entire strategy is misguided: that only the elderly, weak and vulnerable should have been asked to isolate themselves, the rest of us should have carried on as normal and accepted a ‘tolerable’ death-rate in exactly the same way that we do with flu, which kills thousands every year. Instead, we have chosen to bring the economy to a full stop. These views are not a million miles from those that I expressed myself just a fortnight ago.
What changed perceptions so dramatically was the statistical analysis by Imperial College London of what is happening in Italy, where an advanced modern healthcare system has been completely overwhelmed. The study predicted that a laissez faire approach here,would result in half a million deaths and even with the imposition of much more stringent social controls, the NHS will still be overwhelmed with demands for intensive care and ventilation well beyond its capability.
That scenario begs the question of whether there ever really was a sustainable choice available that could have sought to place a higher priority on keeping the economy thriving, above minimising the impact of the virus. Frankly, as admissions spiralled, scenes of mayhem at hospitals were reported on TV (and they will be) and the death toll mounted, then people would have started to isolate themselves entirely voluntarily and the economy would have closed itself down anyway -but in a much more disorderly and damaging fashion.
The prospect of being cooped-up for an indeterminate period is not an inviting one. No doubt, we will all live longer as a consequence -it’ll certainly seem longer.
We all have our preferences. I have invested in a bottle of brandy rather than joining the crowds apparently determined hoard industrial quantities of loo paper