Derek Taylor
Derek Taylor

Let’s do better if there’s a next time

A masked woman passes by the Star of David outside a shul. Jewish communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Jewish News)
A masked woman passes by the Star of David outside a shul. Jewish communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Jewish News)

There are few more nauseating sights than displays of 20-20 Hindsight. They are, however, very often essential when trying to fix blame on your opponents. Such is the present case as the coronavirus pandemic slowly ends after more than a year.

Of course the government made mistakes. Any government would have. Having to choose between a lockdown to save lives and a lockdown to undermine the economy is the ultimate no-win situation. To tackle a pandemic which hasn’t been remotely equalled since the Spanish Flu disaster in 1918 was a challenge only a highly fortunate genius would have managed successfully.

So lets be flies on the wall of a meeting to discuss NHS budgets in December 2019. Pleas for expenditure on new hospitals, and new equipment have been made, and now one scientist says “There hasn’t been a pandemic for 100 years, but supposing we got one now. Suppose a million people needed treatment for a virus. Shouldn’t we have sufficient protective clothing in hand for everybody dealing with patients to be fully protected in hospitals and Care Homes? Of course, most of them have never needed it before,  but they might.” Do you vote for the expenditure?

Moving on, we now have a pandemic in March 2020. Do we lock down the country at the cost of hundreds of billions of pounds, or do we not do so, and have thousands of people die who might have been saved? And can we have the right answer in, say, 24 hours. Everybody who has lost a family member or a friend would vote for a lockdown. Totally understandable. Everybody whose business has gone bankrupt because of the lockdown would vote for it to be abandoned. What’s the right answer?

Now thousands of people need hospital beds. The hospitals send many  of those who seem to have recovered back to Care Homes where they die or pass on the virus to others who die. The technology for hospitals knowing their condition in under five days didn’t exist at the time. The Care Homes  weren’t designed for Social Distancing. We’ll know next time.

Now there is a possible vaccine. Should we buy millions of doses when it may not work, or wait for all the medics in the world to agree which one to choose. Which they still haven’t. Well, we got that one right and bought the vaccines.

But there are nearly 70 million Brits. Can we inoculate them all? Surely that’s impossible. We got that one right too. It wasn’t impossible with everybody pitching in.

Last question; what possible benefit was there for people to lie about the situation? They were all doing their best – and their best wasn’t good enough. They could have been over-optimistic but there is a considerable distance between over-optimism and lying.  Can you envisage anybody – but anybody – making all the right decisions? I lost a friend too and maybe he could have been saved, but the government was getting contradictory scientific advice on many occasions.

There is a body with the responsibility of ensuring that recognised professional standards are maintained in medical situations; they are called the Care Quality Commission. They supervise Hospitals, Dentists, Ambulances, Care Homes and Care Home organisations.  They are an independent body. There are 16,000 Care Homes alone. It’s obviously an enormous job and to be suddenly faced with a pandemic must have been way beyond their normal experience, because it’s beyond everybody’s experience.

We’re going to have a public enquiry into the handling of the pandemic. It’s only objective should be to work out how we could handle another outbreak more effectively.  The chair should strictly ensure that it doesn’t  deteriorates into a blame game.

About the Author
Derek is an author & former editor of the Jewish Year Book