Saturday, 26 September 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XVIII

New arrivals as potential vectors

It was only two weekends ago on a Saturday just into the second kilometre of my 7-kilometre walk to the banks of the River Mersey ensconced by the Chorlton Water Park and Sale Water Park that I saw arrivals to the student halls of the Manchester Metropolitan University. Young men and women brought over by their parents to begin a new phase in their lives.

Then, I wondered about how my city was changing as if we had now found a cosy arrangement with the pandemic where life could somewhat return to normal. Life did return to a kind of normalcy for the freshers’ week, for each time I went out for a walk there were crowds and groups, hardly social distancing, revelling into the night, it was concerning.

Neither here nor there

Then at the beginning of the week, the government began backpedalling on the lifting of restrictions, their urging that we return to our offices was less so, we were now to work from home as much as possible, the whole saga was becoming more comedic and tragic than how the Grand Old Duke of York marshalled his men up and down the hill till they were stuck in the middle, being neither up nor down. At least they were receiving clear directions even if the purpose was unclear.

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On a personal level, health is wealth, to a country in the times of a pandemic, public health is national wealth. The latter cannot precede the former. The bungling administration of Boris Johnson who when he resigned as Foreign Secretary in Theresa May’s cabinet suggested there was a failure of statecraft, in his case, there is a total lack of imagination.

Believing in human ingenuity

Without assuring public health, the national wealth will suffer and all efforts to protect the economy would be exorbitant and consequently fruitless.

We have to believe in human ingenuity that when all things are equal with public health, regardless of how the economy has been battered, it can be revived. History has shown how war has damaged economies and the end of the war ushered in growth and productivity through some pain, but the trajectory is always upwards.

The failure to address the public health emergency with competence and strategy has left us in the throes of a second wave that would be more damaging than the first and possibly leave the economy in a more sickened state than if things were properly dealt with in the first instance.

A student life halted

The students that returned to campus life have somehow met up with the Coronavirus with 127 of them testing positive with COVID-19 leading to the self-isolation of about 1,700 students in Cambridge Hall and Birley Campus, just within 2 kilometres of my residence.

Their self-isolation is to prevent them from spreading it in the community and further down the line, if this is not contained, there is a likelihood that students will not be allowed to return home for Christmas, just to prevent community contact spreading. [BBC News: Covid outbreak: Manchester Metropolitan University students in lockdown]

Can’t blame the students

From another perspective, the students have been short-changed and scammed, universities opened to justify their tuition fees, the hostels opened to keep the landlords afloat through their justifiably collecting rent. Now, they are stuck in their rooms, they can neither attend classes nor return home. It was a catastrophe in the making for which the government would shift the blame to the victims of this pandemic, the students in this case and the public in the general surge in infections nationally.

Whereas, it is without a doubt that the UK government is totally responsible for the mishandling of this pandemic and that is why we have the highest number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Europe. We cannot spin that any other way than say it with conviction as the incontrovertible truth.

Everyone for themselves and for all

On our streets, one thing is evident, the virus is invisible, it is pervasive, it is spreading and the need to maintain social distancing, wear masks, avoid gatherings, wash hands and so on remains a matter of personal safety and self-preservation. There is no telling where in this city of three large universities there are other pockets of infection. Within the week of opening primary and secondary schools, 15 schools were shut with the pupils asked to self-quarantine.

My other concern is how from outside the UK, other countries might be watching things go awry and so place us on a restricted list of travel as both a destination and place of origin. It is obvious that Boris Johnson and his big tent of circus clowns will never get to grips with this pandemic, we as individuals must save ourselves.

 

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