As the plane banked in its final approach, the twinkling lights of their home city were reflected in the water, it had been 30 hours of flying but it was worth it to be home .
5 hours later unpacking was finally possible . The process of customs and immigration had been rigorous and the group of travellers had been guarded everywhere before police escort took them to their places of confinement .
2 days later my friend was getting used to the new routine . 23 hours a day restricted to the room, no opening windows, or fresh air, fed at 7.30 am, 11.30am and 5.30pm. Food brought to the door, no human contact. Parents had brought some drinks and food but they weren’t allowed to meet or even see one another For one hour a day exercise was allowed in a half lit loading area with no access to the open sky.
Confinees could see one another exercising but they had to keep well apart and each had a police escort. Some places of confinement apparently have no areas where people can access fresh air so in a sense as little as there was, this was better than some .
Thus far calls had come twice a day to be sure that confinement was being adhered to.
The cost of this will be around £1500 per person for them to bear.
My friend hasn’t done anything wrong nor are they a prisoner but returning from 7 years of distinguished service overseas. Nor is this an authoritarian dictatorship, this is a modern Western Democracy where UK citizens in their hundreds of thousands are delighted to take their holidays each year
This is the reality of required Covid 19 confinement as required by returnees to this State . These are the priorities they have made.
My friend sees it as an exercise of choice and citizenship.
The State might have a point.They have 5 confirmed cases at present in a population of 5 million . Once free of the Hotel they will enter a city where, having fought the numbers down there are few restrictions. No compulsory face masks, dinner in a restaurant with all of your friends until whenever they feel like closing . In another State of 6.5 million where they had significant numbers of C19 and needed a ( very) strict lock down they reported 12 cases yesterday, UK reported 12,000 for a population ten times that number. You can do the maths.
I recall that Scotland nearly got to those low numbers, it is rumoured that by choice we would have stricter restrictions now had we the borrowing powers to adequately compensate the businesses that would suffer.
Sweden, we are told took a totally different approach. Yes there are restrictions but most are by advice and guidance .Academics from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden seemed rather confused with the comparison with the UK when they said “ ah but you see here in Sweden we tend to believe our Government and so we keep to the advice we have been given.” Numbers have been high, there has been significant mortality but Sweden has coped without a lockdown. The collective will supported by individual commitment .An exercise in selflessness can also serve selfish needs.
France has its problems, high numbers then restrictions lifted and now some areas in local down. Another friend has to get written policy permission to go more than 50 metres from his house.
And then there are the Universities. When I see , granted , cramped accommodation for some but where you have human companionship ( perhaps rather more than you want ) where many have airy courtyards to exercise in, I have to think back to my friend’s situations in other countries .
When Nicola Sturgeon speaks of the “ hardships” and the “ sacrifices “ we have made, I cant help but make comparisons and wonder what the word “ sacrifice “ means to different people. To “ sacrifice “ a Christmas in order to protect your grand parents . To “sacrifice” the human right to get out of your brains some time after 10pm .
I consider then the sacrifices of people in Africa who have no capacity to escape the close living conditions that ensure rapid infection in countries where there are no adequate facilities to assist them in avoiding an appalling death. The sacrifices they have to make when there are no social security systems to support their families.
I wonder how they see our “ sacrifices?”
I wonder too about the the meaning of the word “ citizenship.” What was the understanding of those political advisers and politicians who have seemed to consider themselves exceptional in their need and right to choice to ignore the responsibilities that go with citizenship?
Citizenship has responsibilities but rights, one of which is protection of human life. Where are we on that score? Where are our priories right now as the number of infections seem to soar and as there is a marked reluctance amongst some to put health before the economy .
In giving us the helpful analogy that he is personally “ fitter than several butchers dogs” the PM today said “ the government was “working flat out” to allow for an easing of coronavirus restrictions in time for the festive period, but he again cautioned: “Be in no doubt that it is still very possible that there are bumpy, bumpy months ahead.”
Bumpy means more cases and more deaths, but bumpy is a much more comfortable word than death. Hard to avoid bumps even if you are causal of them.
Christmas lights or Christmas lives?
He went on to say “I’m a freedom-loving Tory. I don’t want to have to impose measures like this, are you crazy? This is the last thing we want to do. But I also have to save life. And that’s our priority. “
I find the last phrase interesting and confusing, because of course there is no one priority, there are a balance of priorities between the economy and health. The measure of government is getting those priorities right .
He was being pressed to remove restrictions , I assume by “ freedom loving Tories .” I find the description a non sequitur, generally but also because Scotland is restricted from the borrowing powers to make its own free choices. However I have to concede that getting these priorities right is a tough call when one side of your ruling party appears to be made up of pandemic deniers.
But there is a fundamental question that it seems we are very reluctant to address.
Do we expect our Governments to do everything ?
Is that the definition of our understanding of “ citizenship?” It seems that the people where my confined friend is see this rather differently, they expect a strictly policed lock down for those who are returning . It seems the people of Sweden ( and arguably Germany) see this as a partnership.
The winning political dialogue at the last election looked backward at an age when Britain was “ Great” . At whose cost is another dialogue for another time but it seems to forget something .
Where there was greatness then it was achieved by a very different definition of sacrifice and citizenship. It wasn’t achieved by fawning to a pathetic victim culture which seems to allow us the choice to make decisions for ourselves that we would deny others.
Sacrifice. Citizenship. Priorities – 3 words to consider .