MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Britain should be proud. Now let’s find a way out of lockdown
Our hearts go out to the frontline staff in the NHS who – as we see by the tragic deaths of the brave and selfless nurses Areema Nasreen and Aimee O’Rourke – face dangers as great as any endured by soldiers in battle.
The Mail on Sunday also offers its sympathy and praise to the families of Health Service workers. Their hearts must ache with constant anxiety at this time.
The nation is entirely united behind these exceptional people, who without complaint take risks on our behalf, in some cases risks resulting from bad management and the failure to provide proper protective equipment, a true scandal which the Covid-19 affair has exposed and which must now be put right for good, without quibble, excuse or delay.
But national unity on other matters may be weakening, and the Government, in which some divisions are now emerging, needs to give serious consideration to what it does next. After several weeks of tightening shutdown, it is clear that some thought must now be given to how the country is to come out of its current state of economic inactivity and restricted personal liberty.
The Mail on Sunday also offers its sympathy and praise to the families of Health Service workers. Their hearts must ache with constant anxiety at this time (pictured, Paramedics walk past an ‘Ambulance Red Route’ sign at the ExCel centre in London, which has been made into the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak)
NHS nurse Aimee O’Rourke, 39, a mother of three died of coronavirus at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, where she worked
Mother of three Areema Nasreen, 36, who had no underlying conditions, died in intensive care at Walsall Manor Hospital, where she had worked for 16 years
Plainly, it is impossible for the current arrangements to be imposed permanently. As the Queen will say tonight, we will in future be able to take pride in how we responded to the challenge. ‘Those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet, good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country.’ So far this is mostly so, and public patience and self-discipline have for the most part been exemplary, but it would be unwise for Ministers to imagine that this can or will go indefinitely, especially as the warmer weather approaches.
And that is not all. Beside the grief and loss caused by the coronavirus, another different but serious tragedy is unfolding. In the last 20 years Britain has become increasingly a nation of small business, living on tight margins and hard work. Now evidence is coming in that perhaps half of the country’s small businesses will run out of cash within eight weeks if the shutdown continues.
The implications of this for society as a whole, for incomes, livelihood and the taxation on which the NHS and our other services rely, are devastating. Like any other living body the economy cannot long survive lengthy inactivity.
The Queen will tonight deliver a rallying cry to the nation in which she expresses hope that the ‘quiet, good-humoured resolve’ of the British people will help to overcome the coronavirus crisis
This is not some crude ‘money versus lives’ bargain. The economy sustains life and health. It provides the walls and foundations of society. A weak economy means low tax revenue, the starvation of public services, lower standards of health and hygiene, worse schools and more crowded housing.
It is also worth noting that the nation’s legions of healthy older people suffer greatly from the shutdown of normal social activities, from gyms and clubs to churches.
Meanwhile Boris Johnson, plainly quite hard hit by his bout of coronavirus, deserves a great deal of public sympathy and encouragement.
It is no easy thing to lead a government under these trying circumstances even if you are in the best of health and surrounded by close friends and helpers.
We must all will him on, to take Britain to the next stage of its battle against the pandemic, and urge strongly that this next step may be one that offers us hope of rapid release from lockdown.
Plainly, caution and concern for precious human life must be paramount, but it is not impossible to combine both these aims into one sound policy.
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