October 19, 2020

You Don't Protect the Vulnerable by Attacking the Innocent

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"This isn't a lockdown" are the words of our political leaders and many politicians in Northern Ireland as they inflict this "circuit breaker" on our communities. Well I would suggest they try to tell this to the many business owners and their staff who once again have been forced to shut or hugely restrict their business as they struggle to even survive as things are. What evidence or data have these businesses been shown to justify their closure? What plan have they been presented with to show what route we are on and Stormont's long term plan in actually dealing with this virus? Well those are indeed the questions being asked and unanswered. These business owners it appears are just being told to "suck it up" and do as they are told, as if they are children who have no right to ask the big adult questions. Well I think they deserve more respect and at least some answers as they get politically knee-capped again, after already doing what they were told, doing absolutely everything asked of them and more to keep their business, staff and the public safe.

The closest we have got to an explanation for one sector was advice that 21% of those infected with this terrible virus had been in a restaurants or bar in the previous 48hrs before testing positive. A key point here that was not made by the journalist taking this information was that restaurants and bars take the details of visitors to their business, whereas the many other places these people will have been also within those 48hrs will not have taken any information at all as people go in and out of their business (as they remain open). So are businesses who do take the track and trace information getting punished because they are going above and beyond to help the authorities track and trace the virus? This hardly seems fair or just.

Hairdressers and Beauty have been converted into places you would be satisfied to get a medical operation in they are that safe, yet they too are closed, with the owners or staff given absolutely no evidence, data or information as to why and what they could have done differently if they are indeed somehow a place where the virus is spreading. To close these places after the massive work they have done to make them safe, with no information given as to why they are to be closed, is as cruel as it is wrong. Then we come to others who have been decimated by restrictions, those who provide live music, DJ's and the events sector. What exactly is the plan for these people? Are they just expected to sit and wait for the plan for their lives and livelihoods? Are they even being considered at all? I don't see much talk about them from the powers that be. Nobody is pretending this situation is not tough, it is extremely tough, but I cannot help but think after almost 9 months our political leaders need to do better, much better. To go back to shutting places down, inflicting misery on countless people and not even having the decency to explain why this is or what the actual plan and end game is seems incredible from a supposed democratic country and the accountability that should come with it.

How have we even got into the situation in Northern Ireland where we have some of the highest cases in the world? How has this been allowed to happen? Our politicians seem intent on blaming the public. Apparently we were the ones who fell out with each other and stopped communicating with the public? We are the ones who attended large scale funeral's when everyone else were unable to? We are the ones incapable of protecting care homes and hospitals to stop the virus getting into them months later? We are the ones who told students to travel from all over the country to return to Uni? We are the ones who stood only 3 weeks ago saying all these sectors now closed were the safest and it was our houses mixing that was the issue? We are the ones who diverted from the basic life saving advice and instead kept changing the rules and advice, confusing everyone half the time? Yes folks, it is all our fault indeed.......

I remember mental health was (again) promised as the priority by many local politicians when they decided to go back to Stormont to work after 3 years of taking our money and not doing the key parts of their job. During those 3 years of absence, and their past years of failure, mental health was long past crisis mode, it required incredibly urgent action. Nobody of course thought this virus would hit, so the politicians can be forgiven for a period of time not working on their professed urgent priority, but here we are months later and all I can say is "but" seems to be the word now used when the devastating mental health situation is brought up, sorry but that's simply not good enough. Those who suffer from poor mental health are sick and tired of that word. If our politicians are willing to throw our mental health crisis under a bus once more, at a time when so many are especially struggling, then can we have faith they will ever actually prioritise it?

I end by how I started and stating that you do not protect the vulnerable in society by attacking the innocent, it is time for some local political leadership for those crying out for it, those in total despair we are back where we are, and who somehow seem to be getting the blame for what is a shocking level of political failure. Protecting the most vulnerable in our communities is the most basic responsibility of any Government or Administration, but the vulnerable come in all shapes and sizes. Those vulnerable to this dreadful virus needed protected from it, but what about those vulnerable to the impacts of these extreme and unexplained restrictions? Are they seen as collateral damage as the politicians and eyes of the media obsess over a virus they have utterly failed to handle? As ever, we deserve better.

© 2020, Gary Hynds