SAFE !!!! In recent times we have heard the word ‘safe’ quite frequently in news broadcasts. People told that they should return to work may say, ‘not until it is safe to do so’. Workers Unions and Teachers Unions want their members to be safe at work. Parents say that they will not send their children to school until it is safe. Politicians unwisely say that it will be safe. Assuming ‘safe’ means free of risk then it cannot be safe, even in the absence of Covid 19, life was never free of risk. All we can ever do is try to minimise the risk. With this virus the stakes are high, people are dying in large numbers, at the time of writing, around 200/day, hopefully that number will continue to fall, but the current number is after nine weeks of lock-down and a week or two of easing. Compare this with road deaths which are around 50/week, this is when we do our best to avoid road accidents. On the evidence then it would seem that going about one’s everyday business whilst taking care to social distance, wear masks and wash hands etc, one is about thirty times more likely to finish up dead from Covid than through a road accident. Certainly not ‘safe’. It may be that a significant proportion of deaths due to the virus is a result of people not following the guide lines, NHS staff, people in care homes and others for whom it has not been possible to social distance, the risk for those who do take care is presumably much lower. Whatever the true risk maybe it is likely to be significant, the virus is going to be out there for some time, and we have to learn to live with it. We can never be without risk. Clearly there is a desperate need for the economy to get going again, the government cannot go on paying peoples wages so they can stay at home. The government has suffered a great deal of criticism in the press and from individuals over its handling of the pandemic. I think they deserve criticism for the way they handled it in the early stages, but since they started the lockdown they seem to have been doing the right things, within the limits of what was possible. People have got to get back to work, schools have got to restart. It has been and is a very difficult decision for the government to decide when and how much to ease restrictions, and it is clearly vital for them to know what the consequence of the easing is on the spread of the virus. If the ‘R’ number continues to hover around one, which appears to be the current situation, we will likely continue as we are, with the same rate of infection and the same death rate which would mean 80,000 deaths in total by the end of the year. Even with the new easing, we must all maintain social distancing, wear masks where appropriate, wash hand regularly etc. Sadly, it does seem that, with the easing, there are many who are not following the rules, especially the young who are not so frightened as older folk, possibly because they are at less risk of dying. They risk forcing the government to re-introduce restrictive measures. With regard to the school debate, I think the worry about the impact that a few months missed school will have on a child’s education overall is exaggerated. Their peer group will be in the same position, it is not like being off due to illness and then having to fit back in with the peer group. I am pleased to see the government accept that most will not now go back until September. Getting year 6 back seemed sensible but I would have thought that those taking O levels and A levels next year were far more important than year one. I do not see why it was not possible to bring those groups in, even if it meant asking recently retired teachers to come back.
Racism Protests I do not doubt for a moment that there are many instances in this country where people with darker skins experience verbal assaults and suffer discrimination. The same may be said for those with light skin, if they can be identified as of foreign origin. Of course, it is wrong and very regrettable, although I do not believe that the majority are guilty the minority may be a very large minority, and that minority appears in all walks of life, including the police force and the armed services. I can understand that people would wish to protest, but violence does not help their cause. I believe a silent protest by thousands has greater impact, violence alienates people and loses sympathy for the cause. I do not believe the country, as a whole, is consciously racist, there is plenty of evidence of people with dark skins being successful and popular in the community, but it is undeniable that there is evidence of abuse and discrimination against people with dark skin. I would like to believe that the British police are not as racist as the police in the USA, sadly I suspect that there are those in their midst who are, and they can give a wrong impression. A recent statistic that I saw is worrying, however; 1741 deaths have occurred since 1990 of people that have come into contact with the police because of some misdemeanour, but there has not been one conviction of a police officer. There are claims that ‘stop and search’ by the police is applied disproportionately against black people and that is stated as evidence of racial discrimination. When we have an epidemic of knife crime and, despite the relatively low proportion of black people in the population, the great majority of knife crime incidents are committed by black people, what would people expect the police to do? Who are they going to stop and search? It is difficult to know what the UK protesters expected the authorities to do. There are laws in place, I imagine those laws could be more firmly enforced. They could make sure that inappropriate behaviour by the police is properly and justly dealt with, although one has to recognise that, in dealing with violent protesters, the police suffer considerable provocation. But ultimately, whatever the government does, it is people that have to change, and good luck with that. There is almost a primaeval reaction in some to people that are different. Is it fear? Tribal? Anyone that is different, or looks different, is likely to be the subject of abuse by some. Even red hair can be associated with some reaction. People that have settled in this country but maintain their traditional culture, religion, or dress, may come under attack because they insist on being different. It is not just the colour of skin that causes reaction, but that is worse because it is so obvious. Of course, it is wrong, but reaction against anyone that is not of their kind is entrenched in some people. Hence antisemitism, homophobia etc. We should remember that there are many dark skin people in the UK that live a life the same as their white neighbours, speak exactly the same, and are happily accepted in their communities, because, apart from their dark skin, they are seen as the same as everybody else. Outside of their community and their workplace, however, they may still be seen as different. It is only by society, as a whole, condemning antiracial, antisemitic, antimuslim and similar behaviour, whenever and wherever it occurs, that we can ultimately bring about change, but it is likely to be a long road.
An Amazing Feat I recently read an account in the ‘i’ of an outstanding achievement by a 15yr old girl in India. It seemed that her father was involved in an accident that left him unable to walk. The girl decided that they had to get back to the family home 743miles away, but they had little or no money. She acquired a bicycle and, with her father seated on what, from the photograph, appeared to be a luggage rack above the rear wheel, she rode the 743miles. It took her ten days, an average of 74miles/day. They depended on the help from strangers for food and shelter. I remember from childhood carrying other children seated on the luggage rack behind the saddle, it is not easy. It was not clear from the picture, but I assume that there was some support for her father’s legs to help keep them off the ground. I thought that it was an incredible achievement for a young girl that should have been more widely acclaimed.