Opinion: Can you put a price on life is question as we prepare to head out of lockdown

At the end of March the Government boldly revealed its ‘‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’’ mantra as the way to beat Covid-19. The main thrust of the strategy, built solidly around scientific advice we were told, was to prevent hospitals and staff being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases.

By Stuart Barber
Thursday, 21st May 2020, 4:45 pm

At the end of March the Government boldly revealed its ‘‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’’ mantra as the way to beat Covid-19. The main thrust of the strategy, built solidly around scientific advice we were told, was to prevent hospitals and staff being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases.

I presume the thinking behind this was that as a result of it working the UK would hopefully avoid a huge death toll and see a relatively unscathed workforce emerge fighting fit and ready to get back to work when the crisis is over and the pandemic a subject consigned to the history books.

That was the clear message at that time and protecting the health of the nation sounded to me like a sensible way forward but it would have been naive to think it was one that everyone in the UK embraced.

As we approach the end of May, evidence of that is mounting by the day. Now there is a growing clamour for the Government to reverse its thinking completely and move rapidly towards lifting the lockdown.

The clear message at this time from critics of the Government’s handling of the situation is to think about protecting the wealth of the nation not just its health.

There are certainly some eye-watering statistics out there to support the call for normal working to resume as soon as possible.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s generous furlough scheme is costing the taxpayer billions for a start.

The loans he is signing off will all have to be paid back and he has HMRC to make sure they are, so it is inevitable that is going to mean a lot of pain for a lot of people for a long time to come.

It is also worth noting that deaths from Covid-19 peaked in the UK on April 8, well before the hoped for impact of the lockdown could have taken effect and at least one of the Nightingale emergency hospitals has been ‘‘stood down’’ due to a (welcome) lack of demand.

In New York State the Governor reports that a survey of recent cases admitted to hospital for Covid-19 revealed 66 per cent were people who had followed the rules and stayed at home.

These stats cannot be ignored but should not prompt a knee-jerk reaction. Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales all signed up for Prime Minister Johnson’s plan and it’s right we hold our nerve.

While each government is moving at a different pace to map out the route to normality, the important thing is we are all heading in the right direction and agree you can’t put a price on life.

This column is a platform for writers to express their opinions. It does not necessarily represent the views of The Falkirk Herald.

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