Coronavirus has resurged with new conviction. A record peak of 22,961 new daily cases last week signals the start of a tough winter for the United Kingdom. A vaccine, which many saw as the ‘magic ticket’ back to normality, has not yet come into fruition. Uncertainty remains, with the prospect of a second national lockdown looming like a dark cloud.
To combat the worrying rise in cases, on 13th October, Prime Minister Johnson unveiled a new ‘three-tier lockdown system’ for England: medium, high, very high. Liverpool has fallen into the latter, with gyms, pubs, and bars told to shut. Liverpool Mayor, Joe Anderson, has expressed his anguish at the “crisis” facing the city’s hospitality industry. Most notably, the iconic venue and birthplace of the Beatles – The Cavern Club – faces the prospect of closure. The fall of the British arts and cultural sector is a crisis for creativity.
Johnson’s new initiative to combat the ‘second wave’ has proven controversial. 42 Tory MPs rebelled against tougher lockdown measures, whilst others argued that he that hadn’t gone far enough. Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, called for several weeks of national lockdown to act as a ‘circuit breaker’. Starmer’s approach has been adopted by Northern Ireland, deepening the disparity between the four nation’s approach to COVID. Moreover, Johnson faced criticism for doing too little, too late, by ignoring SAGE’s calls for a national lockdown 3 weeks ago. Déjà vu anyone?
Public discontent with the current political leadership is not unique to the UK. In a not so dissimilar fashion to Johnson, Dutch Prime Minister, Rutte, has seen his approval ratings drop by 10%.
Regarding Europe, the continent is facing an exponential rise in cases too. 18,000 new daily cases is the new norm for France. The mantra “test, trace, isolate” is reiterated, as Paris is placed under a curfew. Similarly, in the Czech Republic, officials warn that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed – a stark contrast to the dinner party held on Prague’s Charles Bridge in June to celebrate the end of a “difficult period”.
The dire image painted of Europe is not universal though. The country that offers the best balance between maintaining a degree of normality, whilst mitigating the spread of the virus so far is Germany. Despite rising cases, Germany’s testing system is holding up. Coupled with a generous furlough scheme planned till late 2021, the unemployment rate has only dropped 1% since March. In contrast, Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has criticised the inadequacy of the Chancellor’s furlough package, asserting that he will “not surrender the North to hardship”.
Asia provides the West with a ‘textbook example’ on how to handle a pandemic. The UK’s death rate of 64 per 100,000 people dwarfs South Korea’s 0.5 per 100,000 people. Mandatory mask-wearing and surveillance has allowed normal life to resume. In Singapore, the total death toll of 27 deaths is 1600 times smaller than that of the UK. Singapore was the first nation to have an app and has since developed a Bluetooth token, worn on a lanyard that facilitates an effective ‘test, track, and trace’ system.
The UK must follow suit, especially as the next six months will be the most testing yet. Christmas and New Year celebrations threaten to throw social distancing into chaos. Furthermore, Public Health England found that contracting flu and Coronavirus at the same time doubles the chance of death. Downing Street must stop treating the virus with contempt.
If we cast our minds back to March, Johnson declared that Britain was “engaged in a war against Coronavirus”. Seven months later, the militaristic language still resonates with all, encapsulating the struggle for many grieving families and redundant workers. This truly is a battle for livelihoods, entire industries, and life itself.
Featured Image Source: The Guardian