Postcards from the UK Christopher Muttukumaru OX 1968
Thursday, 29 April 2021
A REFLECTION ON COVID 19 IN THE UK – FROM DARKNESS TO A GLIMMER OF LIGHT
In our suburb on the Kentish outskirts of London, leafy Bromley had had a better record in respect of Covid infection rates than most other London suburbs. Then the reality of the UK variant (also known as the Kent variant) hit us as November began. In six weeks, infection figures increased by a multiple of twelve.
We were in lockdown from November until early April. Some restrictions have still not been lifted. But it was a necessary response, just as Melbourne’s response was. Because the UK variant was assessed to be particularly contagious, Christmas was cancelled .
Walking in nearby Beckenham Place Park became a more solitary distraction than it had been previously been. It was only when the snows arrived in January and early February that there was unfettered joy again. As is common in grumpy old men, I bewailed the destruction by toboggans of saplings on a hillside in the park . But the snow brought laughter . That was a priceless reward for winter and early spring gloom. In the last month , the mandarin ducks , woodpeckers and herons have returned.
There is now quiet hope in the UK . The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is a much cherished organisation and it has risen to the challenge of the vaccination programme magnificently. The Johnson Government had been characterised by dither and delay in handling Covid, as Mr Johnson said about Theresa May’s Government’s handling of Brexit. But the rollout of vaccinations has been a success. Nearly thirty four million people have already been vaccinated with one dose. Thirteen million people have had two doses.
Vaccinations are surely the only way to come out of the pandemic . Closure of national and state borders are no more than a short term panacea. Today we grieve for 127,000 people who have died. Tomorrow we will need to live with one another again; we will laugh together once more.
“STRAINING EVERY SINEW” IN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID 19 IN ENGLAND.
“Inspiring” is an over used word. But Pat Hince was an inspiring English Literature teacher, whether teaching Shakespeare or TS Eliot. She and Fr Brennan prepared me for my academic journey as an undergraduate in England. They nurtured intellectual curiosity.
Matthew Hancock is the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in the Johnson Government. He is a Tigger figure who has shown boundless energy in fighting the pandemic.
Whether or not “fighting” is a misnomer , he and his speechwriters undoubtedly owe a great debt to Shakespeare. Through Covid year in 2020, he plundered Shakespeare’s Henry V. Mercilessly, he joined battle with Covid 19, just as King Harry had faced the French foe at Harfleur and at Agincourt.
Mr Hancock has heroically strained every sinew (3 April 2020, 17 September 2020 , 14 December 2020) to win the battle. At Harfleur, King Harry called on his English troops merely to stiffen the sinews. But, moments later , Harry described his troops as ready to strain at the starting line like greyhounds in the slips.
Mr Hancock has also asked the public to look forward to the day when we will look back and “we can all say that we played our part.” But again, King Harry got there first, this time at Agincourt: “Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot. But he’ll remember with advantages [W] hat feats he did that day.”
But Mr Hancock ultimately trumped King Harry and Shakespeare. On 3 April 2020, he promised that not only would we strain every sinew against the virus but also that we would move any mountain that we needed to in order to bolster NHS capacity or equipment.
Game, set and match .