Nicola Sturgeon is getting it in the neck again, I see, because she’s “refused” to rule out introducing restrictions on football. As usual, I think those who are being critical are guilty of the sort of knee jerk reaction they appear to be accusing her and the government of.
The simple fact is that she can’t rule it out. Even if she wanted to, and I’m pretty sure that she would love to be able to say that there’s no reason for concern and that we can all continue living our lives as if this thing didn’t exist.
That so many of us have been is, as I’ve said before, part of the problem Some still won’t get vaccinated, others refuse to mask up and many actually scorn the idea that the global health emergency is real in the first place.
Debating with that mind-set is impossible, and thus pointless.
Those in government have massive choices to make at times like these, and I was involved in politics long enough to know that it’s full of people whose first tendency is to dither and delay and pass the buck during a crisis. We have one of them in Downing Street.
It is incredibly frustrating watching how this guy operates, when experts in virology and pandemic response are telling him that the important thing is to treat this as if it might be the worst case scenario.
And that’s what Nicola Sturgeon, for her sins, is mandated to do, and even with the measures she’s put in place the experts still don’t think she’s moving fast enough.
A lot of them think we’re in a bad enough place that more extreme measures are justified already.
Others – and I am with them all the way – think even the possibility that things might deteriorate to a level where many, many thousands of people will die justifies taking action now.
She’s not ruling out restrictions because she can’t.
This thing is more transmissible; we know that from the speed it’s been spreading.
We know that it has immunity breakthrough properties.
We know that from the same data.
It’s what we don’t know which is crucial.
We don’t know if this variant is less severe.
If it is, not only might we have dodged a bullet here, but this might be the most fortuitous turn of events since this crisis began, because if a variant that is no more serious than the common cold becomes the dominant global one, then we’re just about out of the woods unless it mutates the other way … not unheard of but not common either.
Most viruses do tend to shift to a less aggressive form as they evolve.
The initial data seems to support that view. Seems to.
It could just be that the vaccines are holding serious illness at bay, just as they’ve been doing with Delta.
But if this thing is as dangerous as Delta, and if it moves much quicker than Delta, then even with the vaccines we’re in a whole heap of trouble because of the number of unvaccinated still in the population.
If hospitals become overwhelmed that will have knock-on effects for all manner of other ailments … and people will die in large numbers who simply didn’t have to.
And no government would take that risk.
Football does not trump that. It can’t. Our desire to fill stadiums and follow our team can’t be placed above the common good of the population at large, and it won’t be.
She has to keep the option open and she’s not doing it out of spite or out of fear of looking bad; she knows she will catch a lot of flak if she has to shut down football grounds.
But there might not be any choice in the matter.
Or rather, the choice might be between keeping everything going as it is right now or seeing a death toll far in excess of what we have already, and to her, that’ll be no choice at all.
Fans in football grounds versus the collapse of the NHS … that’s not a decision any politician should need, or would need to, think terribly long and hard about.
All we can do at the moment is watch and wait; it’s out of our hands.
It’s out of everybody’s hands.
This thing will either hit us like a tsunami or pass over us like surf.
In a few weeks we’ll know one way or the other, but if action has to be taken it’s not because someone wanted it or couldn’t wait to screw us. It’s because there was no other option that any reasonable person would choose.