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EXPRESS OPINION: We already have the leader we need

EXPRESS OPINION: We already have the leader we need

Wednesday 25 March 2020

EXPRESS OPINION: We already have the leader we need

Wednesday 25 March 2020


One of the most challenging aspects, of this most challenging of times, has been the need to sip sensibly from the fire-hose of information washing over us.

We have more leaders, experts and future-gazers than we can socially-distance from - if only self-isolation kept their fingers off their keyboards - when actually what we need is calm, clear and well-thought through advice. By the way, and I mention it here, because it is becoming very easy to miss...that is exactly what we already have. He's called Dr Ivan Muscat.

Amid the growing hysteria around our political leadership, we need to remember that the Ministers are acting on the advice of those who sit behind them. In our political culture, our Ministers are just accountants, lawyers, hoteliers. Not one of them is a medic or a scientist. And not one of them has, ever, dealt with something remotely like this before. 

In Dr Muscat we have someone who islanders are used to hearing from every year about infection control, usually in the context of seasonal flu or norovirus.

Video: Dr Ivan Muscat providing an update on the modelling being used to underpin Jersey's health decisions.

Since the beginning of this national crisis, he has been present at media briefings, calmly and rationally answering questions, admitting openly where he simply doesn't, yet, know the answer (the mark of a real expert) - but basing all his advice on the actual scientific evidence in front of him. 

It is on the advice of Dr Muscat and his team that Ministers, including Senator John Le Fondre, are basing their decisions; they have quite clearly said that telling islanders to stay at home is likely to happen, but not quite yet. Why? Because once we are at home, we will be there, realistically (look at China) for the next two months - and once that restriction is released, we may well see a resurgence of the virus. 

For the strongest of families, that time at home will start off as quite fun, with lots of technology to play with; as the weeks go by, it will get tiresome; and by the end (whenever that may be) it will leave them deeply stressed and fractious.

Now imagine what that process is like for broken families; for children who aren't safe at home; for those with mental health problems; for those who are alone or unwell. That's what the Chief Minister means when he says implementing that measure too early will cost lives. 

Video: Dr Ivan explains that social distancing is the single most effective measure to 'flatten the curve'.

Telling everyone to stay at home too early is a narrow and dangerous alley that some will never find their way out of. It will happen, and probably soon, maybe even within hours; but every day that goes by we are becoming better equipped to both enforce it, and mitigate its dangers. 

Currently, Ministers have said they will ask people to stay home - but only when the scientific evidence confirms it is the right time. Dr Muscat, and others, have calmly, repeatedly, delivered that reassuring message.

But already there is a covert political agenda building to use the current national emergency as a vehicle to remove the Chief Minister, for a perceived lack of leadership. Some of the 'experts' on social media calling for that to happen are the exact same people who three weeks ago were criticising the media for scaremongering about a virus which was no than the common cold. How times change. 

Since war-time phasing seems to be fashionable, rather than the tired (but still apt) "Keep Calm and Carry On", how about the more spiky and pertinent "Careless Talk Costs Lives"?

covid_hospital_coronavirus_infection.jpg

Pictured: Once a lockdown restriction is released, we may well see a resurgence of the virus.

The Government's reaction has not been (anywhere near) perfect. All of us can easily find fault and criticise, but the people leading us through this crisis are also subject to the same worries, fears, stresses, fatigue, illness, family pressures and insecurities as everyone else. Everyone is finding their way through this horrible time. 

But most of us don't have the added responsibility of actual decision-making which will (within weeks) cost lives and jobs on a society-wide scale - whatever you choose to do. 

Now is not the time to settle old political scores; now is the time to help, to come together, to work through problems, to stay positive, to be strong...to be a community. 

Now is the time to listen calmly to people who have spent their lives studying viruses, who have made it their job to understand how they work, and how we should contain them.

muscat.jpg

Pictured: We must put our faith in people who have spent their lives studying viruses.

We already have that person, we hear from him every day, and he is the real leader who is actually guiding the actions of our politicians.

He is Dr Ivan Muscat. 

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