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COVID-19: The Welfare Debate

Professor Chris Whitty, (far left) Boris Johnson (middle) and Sir Patrick Vallance (far right)

"We've all got to be clear, this is the worst public health crisis for a generation." Johnson said stonily behind the NHS-advertising podium, leaning forward and addressing the hawk-eyed reporters eagerly awaiting those exact words, but with a relaxed air, as if he didn't know he was also addressing the millions of us watching the televised speech on Saturday. It was clarity, in some respect.

It's been two months since I took the initiative to post something here, apologies. I was working on a few things, mustering up slowly something that would be worthwhile for the time that it takes for you to read these articles, and then news broke some weeks ago now of a strand of Coronavirus: COVID-19; the now global pandemic as labelled by the World Health Organisation. As a result of its origin in Wuhan, China, December 2019, we've seen a complex spiderweb of hard-hitting issues be caused from this coronavirus. The globes largest economies are making tough decisions that are accompanied by huge impacts, such as the depreciation of their own economies and welfare. Within Europe an epicentre has caused a wildfire-like spread of the virus around the landmass, with Italy being the second worst-hit country after China (who are currently crediting for 80,000 cases in their nation).

With its government placing Italy under lockdown, all businesses are closed asides from pharmacies and supermarkets. Each household has one person leave the house once a day, and that is it, no one else goes in or out. This is having and will continue to have devastating impacts on the Italian economy, placing them at severe and probable risk of slipping into recession. France and Spain, after having imposed their countries under lockdown over the course of the weekend, has seen streets deserted all over Europe and means that roughly 174 million people across Europe are facing restrictions over their whereabouts. In addition, Germany as of recent has closed its borders, being the next major economy to implement defence against the entrance of the virus, and there is an EU implemented restriction on travel. Out of Europe, cities such as New York have closed all bars and Schools, along with Ireland, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, and sporting events have been postponed, including the Prem, The Champions League, and The Europa League by UEFA (yes, I know that I support Arsenal thank you very much), and flights are being postponed and cancelled, hitting the travel industry horrifically and probably meaning that many companies won't recover.

And what are the UK doing about it? Comparatively not a lot to the blanket lockdowns that have taken place, but that's because the European scale of response is in accord with the extremity and severity of cases within their regions. COVID-19 is growing in the UK but the government are pushing forwards with this with a strategic four point plan.

graph from the sunday times
Graph from The Sunday Times

On Saturday, Boris Johnson with his right-hand men: Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, addressed the nation at Downing Street and told us some news that may have been difficult to digest for some of you, or may have taken very lightly. I would just like to say, before I divulge into the ins-and-outs of what was said: have some faith in these men, for all we jeer at them from the sofa when watching the news every evening at ten (or I do anyway), this is something that I urge you to not look at from your right or left-leaning viewpoint, remove politics when addressing this. This impacts all of us, rich or poor, male or female, and isn't something that those living in their bubble can escape.

"It is going to spread further and I must level with you, I must level with the British public: many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time."

They announced the second step of the four point plan: the delay phase. Johnson described the phase as "now not just an attempt to contain the disease as far as possible but to delay its spread." He continued to address the consideration of "banning major public events like sporting fixtures." however, "The scientific advice is that this has little effect on the spread - but it does place a burden on other public services." and the decision, that I know angered a large amount of you reading this, is that schools are not closing like they have been in Ireland, Italy, France, and Spain. With this Patrick Vallance got out some good-looking graphs for us all to unpick from around the TV, and Chris Whitty with his calm demeanour (which he was commended for during the Ebola crisis in 2014) told us why this was happening.

So, why is this happening? The question has been angrily ranted on and on, the government have been criticised across the entirety of social media platforms and panic buying has spiralled.

It's in the name, delay. The demands that will be made of us as a population are extreme, and by implementing those demands now, it'll be extremely taxing on us as a society when we reach the actual peak of the pandemic, which is when the lockdown process is set to be put in place. This will therefore mean that people start slacking off and exposing themselves to the virus at its peak when their dedication to protocol is truly vital.

On the topic of schools; we are the generation that will have to build up an immunity to this illness, and therefore by having the younger people who aren't affected like the doctors, elderly, and those with underlying health conditions, we build up an immunity against the disease. By shelving us away immediately from the virus, the return of the virus (if) in future will just have the same impact and this experience will not have taught us anything.

In addition to this, I cannot help but feel that the general truth is that the young people within the education system who are relentlessly campaigning for schools to close right now either aren't in year 11 or 13, or don't actually care that much about the actual risks of COVID-19, but want some extra time off to spend being unproductive. I think we should all be honest here, by week two of self-isolation you'd all be bored shitless, banging your heads against the walls and sick of snapping your friends the same photo and the same questions. I understand if you want schools to close for whatever reason but realistically you have to think about the fact that schools closing will just further postpone this process that we all want to end.

However, the government can definitely be doing more when it comes to addressing exams. We haven't worked this hard for four/two years as GCSE or A-Level students for them to be devalued compared to the next or prior years, I haven't at least. There are thousands of questions circulating everyone's minds: Do we get predicted's? Do they get postponed? Do we have to completely re-do the year?

Yeah, no, it isn't completely fair on the students. obviously there are a number of things the government aren't addressing in full but the schools debate is most relevant. Considering how close GCSEs and A-Levels actually are students have more than a spoken right to the answer, this topic should have been addressed on Saturday in my opinion because schools can only go by governmental advice unless a known case is active within bounds, and I definitely know that I am taking out my own personal frustrations over the topic in my institution when really they can't do anything about it.

However, again, the government's main responsibility is life-saving as opposed to exam-saving. This is a time about being human as opposed to anything else;

It's can be our version of the Modern-Day War Effort

We need to stand together and cooperate more than anything else, and the government are doing all that they can to preserve the health and safety of the British Public.

This is a complex and ambiguous disease that is posing as the most incomprehensible challenge at current for the best of the best within the global scientific and medical field.

It's consequences are having devastating impacts on the global community, and It's time now more than ever for a communal spirit within us all, and even though today‘s briefing highly promoted the concept of social distancing, that doesn’t mean that virtual contact can’t be made. Call your relatives and friends, ask them how they're holding up and let them hear your voice. Public cooperation is what's needed to see a positive outcome in all of this, but public unity is vital to ensure that even within ourselves, physical feelings aside, we are all emotionally okay. This is an anxious and unpredictable time at the start of a long road ahead, and coming together now is what we need more than ever.

So wishing you all the best,

Positively Unhelpful

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