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Covid 19: Getting issues incorrect is a characteristic, not a mistake, in democracy, however can we study farther from it?

“The death of a man diminishes me because I am involved with humanity and therefore I never send to know who the bells are ringing for; it rings for you. “

-John Donne, about TWiV

I have tried not to over comment on the progress (or lack of) any government or administration in dealing with the coronavirus. If there is a long-term benefit to being plunged into deep uncertainty, we can learn faster.

The Pfizer vaccine looks promising (not to say amazing), but even more promising, it is only one of maybe three or four vaccines that will hit the market in the next few months. The global nature of the threat has cut development time to a fraction.

In the meantime, we have had a very difficult winter. Keeping demand manageable in the NHS is not the only resource problem. Reluctance to come to the hospital or even call the family doctor can save other deaths.

I’m booked later in the week to pick up a flu shot from the local GP and was told to come to the back door where arrangements will be made to give it with the limits of the surgery.

Many treatments are now handled over the phone, reducing time and stressful travel for both patients and healthcare professionals. After that, we will have a lot of experience to learn from.

Chris Dillow, a wise man on the British left, notes something important here:

Michael Story and Stuart Ritchie describe how experts initially got it wrong about Covid-19, for example by resisting the use of masks and calling for an early lockdown. Again, this form of ruin is inevitable: the world is complex and unknowable.

We have to decide which mistakes to make, which ruin to cause. Where we could rightly blame the experts is not so much to be wrong as to exaggerate their knowledge.

Quite. For example, while it left a lot of stupid guesswork and real harm (the Dakotas infection rates went through the roof for non-compliance), the reason mask wearing was not enforced was because PPE was prioritized for medical use Employee.

The UK’s early lockdown request was partially turned down because behavioral research suggested people would resist. It turns out that having a common threat to life and mere visceral fear is a powerful motivator.

A close member of my own family saw three medical colleagues end up in ICT, two of whom were ventilated. Now in the second wave, I have good friends who lost people in a second wave that is more diffuse and harder to follow than the first.

While the threat is still very real right now, there will likely be some sort of end to the crisis (where governments borrowed $ 1.25 trillion in the bond market just to try to prevent the collapse of the local economy.

Despite amazing innovation, local businesses are struggling, as Trevor Ringland pointed out on the Irish news last week:

For more general public health, mental health and our standard of living, we need to save our economy, enable social activities and keep younger people working.

The private sector should be at the forefront of this effort – promoting innovation and bringing courage and caution into our thinking.

Businessmen and others had adjusted to make the most of the situation, but the recent restrictions undermined all of their hard work.

We should look for examples of good practice and encourage their wider adoption as we dare not continue to destroy our economy.

As the Chief Medical Officer told Nolan this morning, these are tough choices and I don’t want to be a politician. This is the right relationship between experts (who are not accountable to people and politicians who do).

The republic’s five tier system allows for a number of considerations, not least of all high street retailers whose businesses do not have access to large amounts of public money stating that some airlines must keep them liquid.

Getting things wrong is a trait, not a mistake, in democracy. The more important question is whether we have the courage to continue learning from our so-called mistakes.

Photo by eliza28diamonds is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

Mick is the founding editor of Slugger. He has written articles on the impact of the internet on politics and the media and is a regular guest and speaker across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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