Peter Rhodes on the head-down generation, the NHS under stress and The People's Pestilence
Read today's column from Peter Rhodes
You may have formed the impression over the past few weeks that there is only one plague worth worrying about. Not so. The old hazards are still with us. In a busy street I am suddenly aware of a young man approaching very quickly while fixated on his smartphone. When he is six feet away, unaware of me and a collision seems inevitable, I bellow “Good morning!” He leaps out of his skin, apologises then picks up speed and strides past. Watch out, watch out, the head-down generation is about.
The so-called “One Per Cent” - the richest people in the world, are reportedly dodging coronavirus by paying the earth for quicker tests, better masks, private jets to remote locations and even apartments in a bomb-proof underground structure in Kansas known as the Survival Condo. Their aim, clearly, is to avoid any chance of catching it. For them, Covid-19 is something that happens to other folk. Coronavirus – The People's Pestilence.
The irony, as any health professional will tell you, is that those who get Covid-19 early and survive will have some immunity against it if it comes back later. Which is more than the super-rich can hope for as they emerge, blinking into the sunlight, from the Survival Condo and walk straight into Covid-20, The Second Wave.
According to columnist Owen Jones in the Guardian: “Thanks to a decade of austerity, the Tories have ensured the pandemic will hit the poor the hardest.” Well, only if “the poor” includes those on skiing holidays in Italy or luxury cruises in the Pacific. This contagion has been spurred by affluence and global travel. The first victims of this plague were those who spent thousands of pounds on holidays, not those who sit at home counting the pennies.
Thankfully, at least one Guardian columnist is grown-up enough to see that the time for political point-scoring is over. Marina Hyde: “Wishing the prime minister anything but the absolute best in his stewardship of this crisis is psychopathic.” Amen to that.
As for austerity, how much money should any health service spend on preparing for a pandemic that comes along once in a lifetime? Imagine an NHS so vast and well-funded that it could produce, almost overnight, the required 10,000 intensive-care beds and 100,000 nurses to staff them. And imagine this spare capacity was held in reserve, doctors and nurses endlessly re-trained and all mattresses plumped for 50 years or more, on the off-chance that somebody at a food market in China might buy a dodgy pangolin. Does that strike you as sane use of the nation's resources? Me neither.
The fact is that every health service in the world, private or state-run and whether in a democracy or a dictatorship, has buckled under the strain of Covid-19 and been unable to save some victims. The NHS seems to be doing better than most.