Having introduced the 14 day quarantine to people coming to the UK about three months too late, the government has decided that from Monday week it’s going to be lifted. Now, we can holiday in countries which have done infinitely better than we have in dealing with COVID-19 and probably gift them some new cases. Spain and France didn’t do brilliantly in their handling of the virus, but they still did much better than us. Greece did brilliantly to the extent that we have the same number of deaths every day that they’ve had altogether. Why on earth would they want us back?
To date, Greece has suffered 191 deaths, each a tragedy in its own right. During the same period, we have suffered circa 65,000 deaths. 100 more deaths were announced in Britain today and we have an additional 40,000 new infections every week. I cannot see how this ends well.
I have numerous Greek friends, particularly on the island of Corfu. They are business people and British migrants who have chosen to spend their latter days under the Ionian sun. It must be terrible for Greek businesses, given that the British spend so much money in their towns and villages, and I know that in order to avoid financial ruin they simply need tourists back, so I suppose they are taking a calculated gamble that COVID-19 friendly Britain’s imported gifts won’t erupt on the islands this summer. Similarly, large numbers of migrants to Greece are ‘of a certain age’ and indeed many will have ‘underlying health issues’. Having observed the chaotic scenes on British beaches – and those images have been shown across the world, so the Greeks know what’s coming – and knowing what many Brits are like abroad, the prospect must be chilling. As things stand, I’m going to Spain in a few months and a Canary island a few months after that and I am under no illusion as to what it will be like. Britain will still be grappling with large numbers of cases, indeed as summer turns to autumn and we are indoors more often, the numbers will probably be on the rise so who knows if either holiday will still be on. Those crowded restaurants and bars, with their evening entertainment, will be giant petri dishes.
And in Greece, they keep the old close to the family. Work out the ‘what ifs’ for yourself. Another what if surrounds British tourists going down with the virus whilst in Greece? Check your insurance, that’s for sure, because you might need additional accommodation and later flights if you get ill, not mentioning medical costs. But it is the Greeks I fear for most.
Here in Britain, we never really locked down and now the government message is everything’s back to normal, it’s okay to go out shopping, it’s okay to go on the piss and it’s okay to go on holiday anywhere you like. Boris Johnson warned about people “taking liberties” but it was his organ grinder, our de facto prime minister Dominic Cummings, who took more liberties than anyone else. His trip to Durham ended most of what was left of any lockdown. Johnson’s reckless actions last week finished it off.
To many, COVID-19 is something that has not touched their lives, not even indirectly. For me, I have lost a close family member, seen two friends die and others suffer from this awful virus. Even our terrible numbers do not convince everyone how serious this virus is and that’s understandable. If we can’t see something, we might not believe it’s there. If only people felt that way about God and not COVID-19, but that’s another story.
I truly hope we don’t get news headlines from the Mediterranean this summer saying how the British have infected locals with the coronavirus, or stories from airports as people are refused permission to fly because of a high temperature, or entire resorts having to be locked down. But here we have politics, the politics of choice, which means profits or people; a horribly difficult choice when a country is facing mass unemployment and multiple business failures. See also Britain.
I’m not sure we have realised just how bad COVID-19 still is in Britain. If Cummings and Johnson had locked down long before they chose to do so, and in a stronger, harder way, we would be in a better place today. They didn’t and we remain the sick man of Europe. And if things go very badly wrong, we could be taking that sickness abroad with us in the coming weeks. I’d have thought other countries in Europe should be making us go into quarantine and not the other way around. Business, however, is business. It’s a judgement call I am glad I didn’t have to make, especially with the knowledge that people will die if we get this wrong. Given Johnson’s record to date, it’s hard to believe he will finally get something right.