Britain in Lockdown – Day 16

Boris Johnson remains in the ICU at St Thomas’s hospital in London. He is breathing unaided and on the one hand it doesn’t sound as serious as first thought but some have suggested he won’t be fully recovered for many weeks. This has stirred up the press with talk of power vaccuums and lack of leadership.

The UK death toll has reached 6,159 after the worst day so far yesterday. The revised forecast for the peak is now in mid April, so if they’re right it’s going to be very rough or the next week or more.

President Trump has launched a scathing attack on the WHO (that’s the World Health Organisation, not The Who, the British rock band, although they’re track ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ seems appropriate at this time).

They called it wrong, they called it wrong, they missed the call,” Trump said during Tuesday’s White House press briefing, before going on to imply that they had withheld information.

The WHO have come in for a lot of criticism and have been accused of being China’s lapdog. Critics have pointed to all kinds of evidence but none more so than a bizarre interview in which a WHO senior adviser Dr. Bruce Aylward, an aide to WHO director-general Dr.Tedros Adhanom, hung up and then simply refused to acknowledge Taiwan when reconnected. It was so obvious that he was simply ignoring the question and only wanted to talk about China’s seemingly exemplary role.

The propaganda machines are in full swing at the moment. Earlier this week it was reported that China had flooded Facebook with ads praising China’s reaction to the Coronvirus outbreak and criticism President Trump for his alleged mistakes. It seems that Trump’s press briefing yesterday was the USA returning fire in response to these slurs.

China dubbed its reaction to the outbreak as “The People’s War”, which is oldest trick in the book. Call it the People’s this or the People’s that and it doesn’t sound like a clumsy reaction by an authoritarian regime which punishes 900 people for all kinds of transgressions, even rallying people to provide face masks (which makes the regime look incompetent). Note the times a similar trick has been used in the West; a people’s vote, the people’s choice etc is often the choice of a minority.

The EU’s response to Coronovirus

Meanwhile, the EU is coming in for a lot of flak for its handling of the crisis. The European Union’s chief scientist at the head of scientific research Mauro Ferrari has quit, citing the “uncoordinated” response of the EU to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even the EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič publicly stated that their response was “inadequate”.

Speaking of the crisis in Italy he said,”initially, there was an inadequate response from Member States for help.” Although he later added, “the situation has improved since and this (the lack of response) is now not the case.”

But this may be once again of too little, too late for some member states. According to this article in The Guardian the response by the EU, or the lack of it, may be more damaging to the federation than Brexit. A 16 hour teleconference involving EU finance ministers about how to financially support member states ended without agreement. It will require further negotiations to break the deadlock.

Once this is all over and each country has the time to take stock of how its own government reacted, and what help, if any, came from the EU and neighbouring member states, it may just be that we see a rise in national identity and the value of strong borders under their control.

The lessons of lockdown are likely to be learnt and remembered by the current generation with a similar impact to that of World War II on its children and young adults. They may come to realise the value of family, friends, neighbours, communities, and a country united behind a common cause.

Some may argue that it only strengthens the idea of a federation of countries (like the EU) but perhaps this sense of unity will dissipate at the borders. Countries will empathiseand support each other but only after they’ve ensured their own populations have the supplies and equipment they need.

A pandemic is a powerful reminder of the value of strong borders under regional control, allowing a country to control who can enter and who can leave.