- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
We’ve now had six consecutive days of reduced Covid ‘cases’ (aka 24,950 positive tests for Covid) – precisely the kind of good news the extraordinarily patient and now largely vaxxed-up UK has surely been waiting for. Nonetheless, the nation’s Optimism-Deniers are still spinning even the most upbeat news into a narrative that could see us hurtling towards the seventh circle of Hell on a handcart with go-faster stripes... and they can’t all be behaviourial scientists on SAGE, surely?
What does it say about us, collectively, that so many people are busy hunting the 'Whatabout?' monster, facing down good news with bad? We have vaccines, case numbers are falling, hospitalisations are dramatically fewer, yet as Location, Location, Location presenter Kirstie Allsopp tweeted on Monday:
The number of people who, very clearly, do not want this drop in the number of Covid cases to be true is quite staggering. What is wrong with people? Is that they like the control/the drama/the restrictions and know that they will lose all this as we learn to live with Covid?
— Kirstie Allsopp (@KirstieMAllsopp) July 26, 2021
Responses included: “I want it, I just don’t trust it. Yet... Have the numbers really dropped, or are we just missing loads of cases?” I stepped back from replying “even if we were, ‘case’ numbers are a pretty meaningless stand-alone statistic unless they are linked to hospitalisations and deaths” (because we’re all experts now, right?) and chose instead to visit a friend’s gorgeous Open Garden, in aid of our local hospice.
This fear of a clearly-signposted escape route from the pandemic makes it appear as though we’ve learned nothing, and achieved even less, over the last 18 months – that the end of July 2021 is simply a simulacrum of March 2020. In truth, things couldn’t be more different as we move away from the scary “unknown-unknowns” of a newly identified epidemic to a process of living with an endemic virus.
I see plenty of people on social media and in real life who, prior to Covid, probably never gave the NHS a passing thought until they needed it, but who are now obsessing daily over the health service’s own prospective health... next winter. Though I have a sneaking suspicion that the future of the NHS will be dealt with by people whose day jobs aren’t in retail management, marketing, academia, sketch-writing or, indeed, journalism.
Our collective inability to believe in our own success kicked off early in the vaccine roll-out, when the Government’s messaging began to back-pedal furiously from the idea that vaccinating the most vulnerable and the over-70s would set everybody else free from restrictions, reaching the point where we have now entirely forgotten how to celebrate good news without adding endless panicky “Whatabout...?” caveats.
And the extraordinary irony of the back-pedaling was that it didn’t come about as a result of a colossal statist failure, but as a by-product of its roaring success. While responding to the triumph of the vaccine roll-out by rolling-out the barrels would have been entirely appropriate, instead we cowered.
While many people take baby steps towards a world in which they again feel safe, I took heart at the supermarket checkout yesterday when the small talk was almost thrillingly banal: “Does this relentless rain mean we’ve had the best of summer?” “Mind you, hasn’t it been wonderful for the garden?” ...and though that novelty will surely wear off, I hope that our collective inability to enjoy how good it feels to succeed wears off even faster.
We can clearly do success – a world-beating vaccine, a Euros final and a clutch of gold medals already in Tokyo are proof of that. But can we collectively, proudly “own” our successes? Unless it involves sticking a flare somewhere the sun don’t shine, it would seem we’ve all but forgotten how to positively spin our positivity. Yet, to re-purpose a hackneyed phrase, if not now, when?
The Negativists will say “sometime... maybe... somewhere over the (NHS) rainbow”, however for those of us who doggedly remain Optimists, stumbling across a signpost reading ‘Here Be Dragons’ is often less of a dire warning than it is an invitation. Frankly, when even Professor Neil “doom-stats” Ferguson is now saying that “the UK will be looking back at the pandemic” by the autumn, one can only assume that the PM is still urging us to “be very cautious” and not “jump to premature conclusions” simply because he wants to remain PM.
It’s high time the Optimism-Deniers stepped away from the frontline (and downed their metaphorical flame-throwers; this isn’t a “war”, it won’t be “won” or “lost”) and the die-hard Optimists stepped up. Let’s start properly living in the glorious sunlit uplands of Here and Now – aka summer 2021 – where the only caveat is that yes, of course, it may well rain.