In the bleak midwinter…

By Simon Gentry

Cities, counties and nations locked down, mortality numbers rising daily, nearly a million newly unemployed, short days and long cold nights.  The least we could be allowed is some time with the people we love most.  And yet if we do the virus will overwhelm the NHS and many, many more of our elderly will die early.  Christmas, the scientific experts tell us, must be cancelled.

That is the bleak picture confronting the Prime Minister and his team today.  The pressure to abolish the five day window to allow families to meet for the (formerly) festive period is intense.  Today Labour’s Sir Kier Starmer added his voice to the growing chorus of concern.

As you will read in the following article, it’s not just us in the UK who are confused and angry. In Italy the public mood is the same.  And with tight lockdowns in place in France and Spain, now joined by Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, an air of depression has descended everywhere.

It is counterintuitive however, that depressed and gloomy as we all are, according to the polls we still support the lockdown strategy that our, and most other, governments are following.  In fact support for the government’s actions is holding up surprisingly well.  The public seem to recognise that the spread of the virus is beyond government control and it’s the actions of millions of individuals and it is the fault, if that’s the right word, of those individuals that the virus continues to spread.  We just have to tough it out till the vaccine comes, seems to be the view.

The growing excitement about the vaccine and its potential to restore normality is growing with every report of a friend’s grandparent being vaccinated.  So it is worrying when there are reports that the vaccination campaign might not be as glitch-free as we would all hope.  Journalists are keen to report how many have been vaccinated so far and how many are being protected each day.  And yet the NHS seem unable to say.  It seems not to know.  Now, it may be that there has been a decision not to make this information public, and I’m sure we all hope that is so.  But it would be awful, and a body blow to public confidence, if the impression was to be formed that the roll-out was as chaotic as say, the track-and-trace system has proven to be.  Let us hope that does not turn out to be the case.