Pubs and restaurants in England open this weekend, and the government is so desperate for us to start spending our money again that they’re practically pleading with people to get drunk on Saturday. Some people have even suggested that we turn 4 July into a day of celebration. Celebration of what, I wonder?
Remember back in March when Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government said the aim was to keep the total number of Covid-19-related deaths to 20,000? A ‘good outcome’ he called it. To date, 60,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19, which is triple the amount first predicted. Again, I ask, what are we meant to celebrate?
It’s no accident that a disproportionate number of Covid-19 victims across the UK are old people, people from black and ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities. No, it is the result of years of austerity measures, disability cuts, and the continued prevalence of institutional racism, sanctioned by three consecutive conservative governments.
Black Lives Matter was trending for a few weeks, and almost every business, media, and other outfits rushed to declare their support. Listening to the radio while driving my youngest daughter to school, however, it seems much of that sympathy for Black Lives Matter has now run its course. Back to normal, in other words.
Meanwhile, members of the disability community have repeatedly sought to make contact with Justin Tomlinson, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work. Tomlinson has responded by blocking carers and parents on Twitter for daring to complain about the lack of provisions for disabled kids during the Covid-19 crisis.
At the beginning of the lockdown, the government commanded us to ‘stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives’. Naively, I dared hope that the Health Secretary had grown a backbone and some empathy as a result of catching the virus himself. I should have known better, of course; for with the imminent reopening of pubs, restaurants, hotels and hair salons, the government is once again proving that it cares more about profit than about people.
The government’s daily Coronavirus press briefings ended abruptly last month; some say it’s because the government’s scientific advisers refused to condone and support the ending of the lockdown; others say it’s because Boris Johnson was getting bored with the crisis. Either way, if you want to know how many people died yesterday and today, you’ll have to actively search for the numbers online. Yesterday, it was reported a further 176 people across the UK had died from the virus. That’s more deaths in one day than any other European country, except Russia reported for 1 July. The UK has the third-highest Covid death toll in the world, beaten only by the US and Brazil.
But we’re still encouraged to go out this weekend and ‘celebrate’ by spending our money to get the economy going. All in good time for Brexit.
All that talk – and hope – of creating a new, better, normal for everyone in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, seems to have been forgotten. While the government focuses on money-making, an increasing number of people say they are fed up with the restrictions imposed on them during the crisis, questioning why their annual trip to Crete and Ibiza should have to suffer because some old and frail people are dying. It’s hard to stay optimistic about humanity in the face of such attitudes. Still, I want to believe that a better future for all is possible.
PS. I’m taking a break from blogging over the summer and will be back again in September.