Has the time come to give some credit to the government? After a pretty rough start, slow to act, not understanding the issues, behaving in an astonishingly inept manner, now the government’s response is becoming fairly closely tuned to events and the data.
There are some disturbingly tone deaf aspects of the response, such as cancelling Eid with literally a few hours notice. As a lot of Muslims pointed out, cancelling Christmas at 9.40pm on Christmas Eve would not have been handled in such a casual way as happened in some areas last week. The mostly white, Christian, upper middle class civil servants and ministers making these decisions probably had no idea that a big family day for many people was affected by their announcements.
However, it’s probable that the decision would still have had to be made – after all, big family gatherings are exactly what you want to avoid in an epidemic.
And right now the government does seem to be thoughtfully trying to balance the very difficult high wire the country is tiptoeing along – death and distress on one hand, financial ruin on the other, if you fall off this one.
It’s not even really an area for left/right politics. Given that the Treasury early on accepted the case for massive central financial support for the economy down to the level of individual jobs, there’s not a lot more that a leftist Labour government could have done in that area. And there’s no evidence that a particular political hue gives one greater ability to control a medical pandemic. Indeed as China showed, a society under the thumb of a tightly controlling administration actually handles these sort of things quite well.
So, while we do look forward to the review and the inquest into the reaction to Covid 19, let’s for the moment accept that Boris & Co are now walking the tightrope pretty much as well as they can, given the unfortunately dire starting position they gave themselves.
We have only to look across the pond to see examples of just how bad it could be, after all.