Remember, remember, the 5th of November

Empleomania – the overweening and manic desire to hold public office, at any cost

If blogs came with sound effects, this one would begin with the theme tune from Jaws. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, gym, pub, golf course, train, office, restaurant, hairdresser, shops…*insert other destination of choice here*, along comes Lockdown Part 2: This Time It’s Personal.

It certainly feels as though we are all being punished for not following the rules. Even though many, many people did follow them, many others flouted them completely, while the vast majority of us tried to, occasionally failed, but mostly just attempted to get some kind of normal-ish life going.

It wasn’t to be though, that normal-ish life, and once again, from tomorrow (Thursday November 5th) England is back in lockdown, forbidden from going anywhere that isn’t absolutely essential.

I don’t think the government really had a choice. The R rate is rising, hospital beds are being filled with Covid patients and we do seem to be slap-bang in the middle of the expected second wave, which, if the statistics are to be believed, will be worse than the first wave. Many people do get coronavirus mildly, feel rubbish for a few days, find that everything tastes like cardboard and then recover. For others though it’s life-threatening, serious and long-lasting, with goodness knows what kind of long-term effects. I have to confess to being immensely confused by all the stats and the figures, not really sure what any of them actually mean, despite the redoubtable efforts of Sky News’ Ed Conway who daily tries to make some sense of it all on Twitter.

The simple fact is that if we limit the spread of Covid-19, reduce the number of people catching it and ending up in hospital, we don’t just save those lives, we save the lives of people with other diseases whose desperate need for operations and hospital treatments have been put on hold – Because Covid – all too often with tragic consequences. Had the government spent the Summer sorting out Test, Track and Trace so that it could actually, you know, trace people who had tested positive and track where they’d been and therefore work out where they might have been infected, we could be in a rather more positive place (pun not intended). But they didn’t. I’m not sure exactly what all those Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey and Deloitte consultants were doing for their £7,000 a day but I’m not sure it would stand up under best practice procurement scrutiny.

It wasn’t the smoothest of announcements either. Thanks to a blabbermouth in the Cabinet Office, most of us had heard the news from Robert Peston before the hurriedly-arranged press conference which, having been scheduled for 4pm moved to 5pm – clashing with the rugby! – to 6.30 and then, by the time, we’d go through Boris’ initial bafflegab, it might as well have been 7pm and time for Strictly.

The rules, as in the last lockdown, are controversial. I’m gutted that grass roots rugby, tennis and athletics are on the verboten list, meaning I’m going to have to try and force my teenagers to come out running with me – but only one at a time. Which they hate because it’s a) so uncool to go out with your Mum, b) I can’t keep up with them and c) did I mention it’s uncool to be seen with your Mum?

Still, I think there might be a way of looking at this that isn’t complete doom and gloom. This industry, at least, is by and large, in a far better state than it was at the beginning of the previous lockdown. Construction and manufacturing have specifically been told, by the Prime Minister, that it is essential and that it must keep operating. There are guidelines for allowing tradesmen to keep working, ensuring that merchants’ customers will keep busy, meaning the rest of the supply chain will need to keep up. Hurrah-ish.

We’re also better at handling it than we were. Most of us have got used to the idea of working from home. We might miss the day to day contact, but we know we can do this. We’re getting good at Microsoft Teams and Zoom meetings; we’ve learned to tell those face-to-faces that we really need from the ones that can be sorted out in a quick phone call. This industry has adapted incredibly well to the challenges already this year, it’s laid the foundations for being able to get through this time.

One final thing: if you have to buy stuff during lockdown, don’t always head for the Sainsbury’s website or open your Amazon App. Shop local, buy bread from the baker, meat from the butcher, vegetables from the farm shop, beer from the pub that’s doing home delivery to avoid chucking it all away. The little businesses need our custom as much as the bigger ones and we need them to still be there when we get through the other side, whenever that is.

We’re in this together and we can get through it together.



About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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