Rev Oliver Coss column: We must avoid a local lockdown

Rector of All Saints with St Katharine and St Peter

By Rev Oliver Coss
Wednesday, 29th July 2020, 3:49 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th July 2020, 3:52 pm
Mobile tests have taken place in the county this week
Mobile tests have taken place in the county this week

The last 24 hours have been interesting: press releases, public announcements and statements almost designed to coincide with the day that face masks became mandatory in certain settings.

After the local resilience forum issued their statement on the rising infection rate in Northampton, my inbox filled with no less than 15 separate reiterations of that message from various sources.

The morning after, my bishop wrote to say we ought to consider offering worship outside until this alert passes.

It’s natural that news of a local spike should bring back memories of the beginning of this pandemic, and the rhetoric wars between the scientists and medics who warned us of difficult times to come and those who said this was just scaremongering.

We’re used to bad things not turning out as bad as we feared, but this turned out not to be one of those things.

Not yet as bad as some other countries, certainly worse than some others have been, which leaves me with one question: are we finally ready to listen to the experts?

In a fascinating tribute to Michael Gove’s infamous ‘we’ve had enough of listening to experts’ claim, we now find ourselves living in the fast-paced world of medical science.

Subject to a huge number of factors that influence the course of this pandemic (especially now that we have seen an end of widespread community transmission), we now live in an era where flare-ups might drag us back to a nationally deteriorating situation if we fail to take proper local action.

Of course, at the beginning it doesn’t look terribly serious, and when the Chron gave a platform to experts and local leaders who wanted to urge us to take greater caution, all they got in response was dismissiveness and even accusations that they were stoking people’s anxieties.

But we have been here before.

This state of alert will not last forever, however it’s a good illustration that the world isn’t out of the woods yet as far as coronavirus is concerned.

There are going to be more times when it’s receding, and more times when it is worsening, and those who take no action, who contribute to the growth of the virus, are going to have some explaining to do to all those whose time shielding is almost up.

If the carelessness of some forces them back into lockdown, that’ll just be cruel.

We need to use well these small windows.

We need to use them carefully to kickstart our economy and society, but without putting communities at greater risk and danger.

That’s why easing in lockdowns seem to make no sense, or make some things permissible and others – almost unaccountably – not possible.

Imagine every week we have 28 different things we want to do: Coronavirus leaves us with a ‘transmission budget’, a small window to do some of it, but not all of it.

As our public health officials have no evidence for the growth in infections, save testing statistics, it’s time we set ourselves a ‘transmission budget’ and stick to it as if it were money in our pockets.

Let’s do this not only for ourselves (for many of the new infections are among younger people), but for others who might have far more to lose if the situation gets bad here in Northampton.