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EXPRESS OPNION: Time for confidence

EXPRESS OPNION: Time for confidence

Thursday 25 June 2020

EXPRESS OPNION: Time for confidence


There’s a famous Sir Alex Ferguson quote: his United team never lost, they just ran out of time.

‘Time’ has been used repeatedly through Corona 2020 both to beat Ministers up, and to pluck them out of trouble.

Fresh with images of suffering patients in New York, and Italy, in their minds, few people disagreed with ‘lockdown’ – but many have voiced their vituperative upset at either how slowly we went in, or how slowly we have come out. Time, you see. 

Few disagreed with the decision by the government pump millions of tax-pounds into businesses to try and protect jobs, or to implement major borrowing plans to pay for the island’s economic recovery; but their speed of execution has been likened to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Again, it's time.

Which brings us to today’s forecast ‘non-announcement’ of a move from 2m to 1m in terms of physical distancing, from tomorrow.

Given that the number of local cases has amounted to just a small handful for some time now, many in the hospitality industry see it as a slow train coming, with their livelihoods damaged beyond repair before it finally wheezes up to the platform - not so much a TGV, as 1970s British Rail.

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Pictured: the States have backed measures pumping millions into the economy. 

Essentially, what the island has done so far is to buy time.

The virus is still here, the UK is discovering just under 1,000 new cases every day. That is 1,000 people catching something we don’t yet (at least publicly) fully understand, which seems to vary in its effects from nothing to death. And, in the middle, it can be a couple of weeks of mild discomfort, or months of ongoing breathing problems and a total lack of energy.

Jersey has not really experienced it yet at all, in a way comparable with other places, which was the whole point of ‘lockdown’ - buy enough time for the island to prepare in terms of kit, infrastructure, knowledge and expertise.

That’s worked.

In the intervening period, we have found a drug which reduces deaths in the most serious, by a third. Good news, if that one-in-three case is your mum or dad. 

In the face of a lung-busting bug, which swept across the whole world from China in just three months, we have bought ourselves, quite literally, room to breathe.

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Pictured: Jersey's testing procedures can now turn results around quickly. 

We have also bought ourselves time to prepare to re-open our borders. They have been our greatest protection - but, like a city under siege, what can protect can also imprison, and sooner or later the gates have to be opened. 

Opening the borders is one of those decisions with a compelling case either way - too soon, and much of the good work is undone; too late, and the island will be a very different place for many years to come, with drastically reduced transport links, and an emaciated hospitality industry, which simply cannot survive on heavily discounted stay-cations and a few afternoon teas with the family.

We have had time to make arrangements for testing, tracing and quarantining. We have had time to plan the logistics of keeping people safe. 

On that basis, we need to trust in the arrangements which are in place, and now the decision has been made to allow commercial travel again in a little over a week’s time, the government must be bold, resolute and inspire confidence. 

That’s an ethereal quality, which, after the society-wide shock of the last few months, will take time to return. 

How would you feel about travelling through Gatwick at the moment? What about flying in a cramped and pressurised cabin? 

Even though people can travel, it doesn’t mean that they will, at least not in the numbers to make the routes viable.   

Telling everyone to “stay at home”, and the community responding with numerous messages of “stay safe” on walls and windows, has all had an effect: fear has transitioned from being our greatest protector - keeping us at home - to becoming the main drag factor on our recovery – keeping us at home. 

Simply telling people to “go out” is rather different.

Instead, confidence needs to be inspired through words and deeds. Now is the time for this government’s greatest test: how to treat the fear in its people.

We won’t recover, unless that is achieved. 

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