The Covid-19 pandemic has caused deaths and major disruption to every country’s economy and consequently, the global economy. The “lockdown”, a reaction to the rapidly increasing number of people who were contracting the disease, happened at a different time-point over the spring for each country. So each is on its own journey with each government charting its nation’s course.
In encouraging news, researchers at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) predicted, with all due caveats, that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to end 97% in the world on May 29 and 100% on Dec 8, 2020, except for some cases persisting in a few countries until February 2021.
As Covid-19 infection rates and death counts drop, EU countries are gradually loosening their lockdown restrictions and “ramping up” their test, trace and isolate strategies. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland are following along this path but England seems determined to do things differently.
Why is lockdown ending in England?
The UK’s aim was to “save the NHS” by “flattening the curve” so as to “save lives”. As “protect the NHS” has dominated over “save lives”, it was protected, at the cost of the greatest death toll in Europe and heavy loss of life among NHS doctors and nurses. So when it comes to loosening the lockdown regulations the UK government is now weighing up political and economic considerations instead of public health factors. In other words, it is deciding whether to kill the economy or the English. Or both. Even as it says it’s attempting to save both
Comment: Businesses are so concerned about whether they can re-open, they aren’t stopping to think as to whether they should.
Within the workforce two completely normal instincts are competing:
The instinct to get back to work, get the kids to school and get the wheels of daily routine turning again is pulling against the instinct to be prudent, protect themselves and family and stay at home.
What motivates people to go back to work?
1) Need for money. How people balance the risk of taking the virus home to their family against not taking home their wages will depend on how desperate they are for money.
Remember: Workers in jobs that cannot be done from home find it hard to go without pay for a couple of months because they don’t get paid enough to save much.
2) People want things to go back to normal, the way they were.
Comment: Getting back to the way we were is by no means certain. Nor is it certain that people want the old normal. Was it really so good?
Queries: Was it normal to work on zero hours contracts? For very low pay? Was rush hour normal? Was cramming people on trains/tubes/buses normal? And what about sitting in a car for 2 hours to get to & from a job that could be done on a PC at home? Do you really miss wasting time and energy on office politics, cliques, backbiting, gossip and the resident go-getter? Why spend money on transport? Why should companies pay for expensive office space, when the worker’s kitchen table or home office costs them nothing? Small individual contributions across the workforce would cost firms less than buying or renting commercial property.
3) Other people appreciated the time they spent with their children but realised what their true priorities were.
She identifies with her JOB, not as a house-wife and mother. He’s his OCCUPATION, not a house-husband and father. These people find more meaning at work than within the family
Query: Didn’t work use to mean producing goods/services? Does it now produce identities? Why is it now providing meaning to life?
4) An individual’s self-image may be closely linked to how useful they think they are wthin the company, particularly when it comes to wielding petty power.
This is reinforced by messages such as “There’s nobody like our Mr John/Ms Jane for getting things done. We couldn’t do without them”.
Comment: They’ve never quite realized that though we may all be needed, no one is indispensable.
5) Other people believe their jobs are worth more than the risk to (someone else’s) life.
particularly when that life belongs to an elderly person.
Queries: Do people accept mass deaths? Where’s the public anger? Would people be more outraged if a majority of 35,000+ (and possibly up to 60,000+) victims had been children or young adults, rather than aged pensioners? Or were they at the end of their lives anyway? And of no more use? Their deaths matter only to their family and friends. Indeed,some say, their pensions were an onerous burden on society.
6) Business people own the firms.
They say “Customers depend on us. If we don’t meet our committments to them, there’s no money for anybody”.
Comments: Staff are starting to understand the value of their labour as they take on board two points: i) the firm’s right to make money does not supersede their right to life and ii) without staff doing the work, no firm will make any money.
Society is recognizing that under-paid and under-valued occupations like bus, train and lorry drivers,hospital cleaners, delivery men, care home workers, supermarket staff and so forth are essential for the functioning of society. Their value and image are being reassessed by the public – but not salary-wise by the UK government.
The UK economy may not be saved anyway despite, or because of, current steps towards loosening lockdown restrictions. The Covid-19 virus is still spreading among the population and the test, trace and isolate strategy is as yet poorly developed and practically untried .
Until people are convinced they are safe, a lot of them won’t risk visiting shopping centres, using public transport, flying or gathering in large crowds at matches and concerts. If they decide the risk of infection is too high, many non-essential businesses like shops, cafès, nail and eyebrow bars and various other services won’t see enough customers to offset the costs of opening and setting up anti-Covid-19 protection systems. Owners will lose less by staying shut, particularly if they operate on thin profit margins at the best of times.
Finally, loosening lockdown restrictions before the epidemic is under control, as the UK government appears to be doing, could well lead to a second wave of Covid-19 infections. When a lot of workers are sick in this second wave, manufacturers and service industries will close because they cannot operate without labour.