By Christmas, the gloves come off and the Government will have lost control.
In July 1936, four climbers set out to tackle to North face of the Eiger, one of the most feared and dangerous faces in mountaineering. Andreas Hinterstoisser made an almost unmakeable move which became known as the Hinterstoisser Traverse, across a glass-like section of granite.
Injury to one of their party and slow progress meant they decided to turn back. Sadly, the rope they used to make the traverse they pulled out and Hinterstoisser could not repeat his feat again.
This left them stranded with only near-impossible choices. In the end, Hinterstoisser fell to his death while two more died on the rope leaving Tony Kurtz to try to descend before running out of rope and left dangling in a storm, meters away from the rescuers.
He stayed there all night. The next day he had to cut away his dead colleagues, tie ends of their rope together with a frozen hand (he has lost a glove). Unable to do so he said, “Ich kann nicht mehr” (“I can’t anymore”) and died, a few meters away from rescuers.
The UK government is risking the same fate as Tony Kurtz. It’s risking being frozen out by its own population as it tries to control the spread of COVID-19.
What’s The Problem?
In short, credibility.
Yes, infection rates are soaring again. The trouble is people are beginning to ask, “So what?”
Deaths are staying low, hospitals aren’t overrun, doctors have got better at treating the sick. We are now hearing that some scientists think at its peak in the UK, the number of people who were catching the virus could have been 100,000 a day.
Many get it and don’t feel bad. Some people have undoubtedly had it and not even realised. I have at least one friend who has tested positive for antibodies yet had no symptoms.
People get nasty bugs all the time and die. So what. That’s life, is what may people are beginning to say.
That’s a tough statement to make. My fiance has auto-immune hepatitis and is on immuno-suppressants meaning she has to shield and is at greater risk if she catches the bug.
However, she is also at risk of catching lots of other bugs as we have just learned, (she’s caught one) which can also have devastating outcomes.
Life is a risk, its impossible to eliminate it but by trying to reduce it, and by doing so badly and inconsistently the government has lost the goodwill it could have used to ensure compliance on more simple, effective everyday behaviour change — hands-face-space.
Westminster Sense Doesn’t Count
They’ve lost the common man. Most of the rules contradict each other. They make no common sense.
Once a blanket rule is changed (the blanket lockdown rule that was followed so well) you lose. Simplicity is key: hand-face-space works and should have been the second message.
Stick to that and let people get on with ‘normal’ life. Simple rules and restrictions force invention and creativity to adapt. Changing rules and confusion are barriers to adaptation. This is what’s fuelling the anger, frustration, resentment and non-compliance.
Sadly the rule-makers live in the Westminster bubble, which in itself is in the London bubble. Most of the country lives in neither and don’t care much for either.
What’s The Untold Cost?
We are all aware of the economic cost of the decisions taken so far. At the start, people complied out of fear. Fear because it was unknown, fear because of the images of so many dying in hospital.
Now that fear has been replaced by fear of economic destitution for many. But what of the other costs and impact? Domestic violence and poor mental health have escalated since lockdown began to name just two. How much will that cost?
The population is now beginning to ask, are the restrictions really worth it? I suspect the growing consensus is not among the common person is not.
The government is losing its grip. Like Toni Kurtz they are freezing to death, hanging out on a rope, trying to undo the knot of their own making. The rescuers, in this case in the form of civil obedience, are not sure they even want to make the attempt.
They would rather stay in their warm beds of familiarity and a way of life they know and want. And take the risk.
. . .