Out in the jungle while a mad Zookeeper runs amok

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your mouth
Blowing down the back roads headin’ south
Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot, babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe
– Bob Dylan, Idiot Wind

My oh so quiet Interim Busan Bureau feels like a haven from the madding crowd of the UK, somewhere I now feel relieved to have escaped from earlier this month. While the Republic of Korea battles earnestly to contain the so-called fourth wave (over 1,200 cases for the second consecutive day, one death), its a case of Keep Calm and Carry on Maskless back in Boris of Blunderlands patch (39,950 new cases and 19 new deaths).

Queuing up for another COVID PCR test as a line of concerned citizens snakes along the road to attend the open-air clinic

Yesterday to ease my angst about the ridiculous situation in the UK (where my children, granddaughter, friends and most Moodie Davitt team members still reside) and the deeply alarming one in countries such as Indonesia, India, South Africa, Thailand and many others, I took a morning walk from Songdo Beach to Amnam Park, one of Busan’s most beautiful attractions.

Here one finds welcome serenity. Dense pine forests interlaced with walking trails hug the cliffs overlooking the sea, as the mountains loom behind. There are suspension bridges, biennale sculptures, fantastically shaped rocks, an observatory and astonishing views of the open sea and the ships making their way in and out of Gamcheonhang Port.

But as I said, I am in an Interim Bureau and this is an interim reality. Back to Boris. Freedom Day or Fiasco Day, which is it? Has he called it right in lifting almost all coronavirus restrictions, including the mask mandate and social distancing rules, on Monday, a day dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ in government and media circles?

He and his Tory party cabinet think so; many outside Britain not only differ but fear the repercussions not just in the UK but also for the world at large.

The Sunday Mirror headline sums up the whole fiasco

CNN recently ran an article comparing the approaches of Singapore (population 5.69 million) and the UK (66 million) as both governments accept that COVID-19 is here to stay but have adopted very different approaches to living with that fact.

The Singaporean plan is to move away from daily monitoring of cases to a focus on medical outcomes, including “how many fall very sick, how many in the intensive care unit, how many need to be intubated for oxygen, and so on”.

However, do not expect the brakes to come right off. Today, the Singapore government announced that COVID-19 measures will be tightened again from 22 July until 18 August as Singapore returns to heightened alert phase-two status to curb the recent spike in local infections. Spike, that is, as in a latest daily count of 185 compared with the UK’s 39,950.

Dining in will not be allowed and maximum group sizes for social gatherings will be reduced from five to two. That rather bears out the assertion that Singapore’s reopening “won’t be the UK-style ‘Take off your masks and let’s party,” approach, as Dale Fisher, a professor in infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore told CNN.

Is that description being too hard on the UK? I’m not so sure. Read this report (possibly with your hands in front of your eyes as in a horror movie) from the BBC’s Hannah Morrison on the reopening of clubs this week.

“The countdown began, midnight struck, confetti cannons went off and the queue erupted into cheers and screams of joy. Then the doors opened and hundreds of people poured into Fibre – a nightclub in the centre of Leeds. No proof of a negative test required, no Covid passports needed here, just the option of hand sanitiser on the door.

“No-one was wearing masks and it felt like everything was normal again. No-one wanted to talk about rising cases of coronavirus or the risks – they just wanted to dance. And for the first time in 16 months they could.”

They could indeed. While no doubt infecting many within the room who will then go on to infect countless others, who will then go on…. well you get the drift, right?

Bar Fibre patron Lorna Feeney, 44, of Leeds, told The Mirror, “I’m absolutely ecstatic. That’s my life, my soul – I love dancing. It bonds me, it’s amazing, it makes me feel so good. It’s about listening to the music and really feeling it, having a dance and not having to worry about anything that’s going on – not sitting on your chair and getting fat.”

Well, that’s alright then Lorna, you won’t get fat. A huge chunk of the population will get very ill and some will die but you won’t get fat.

[Note: The government belatedly announced new COVID clubbing restrictions yesterday, on the very day they were lifted. From late September, customers will be required to show proof a double vaccination before being allowed in. Progress, of sorts, I suppose but the end of September is ten weeks away.]

While England removed the need to wear masks in public spaces, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said they will remain compulsory on the capital’s transport network as a “condition of carriage”. So what happened Monday? Yep, many commuters (an estimated 10%) decided to abandon their masks. Expect that percentage to rise just as inexorably in coming weeks as the number of new cases.

A group of female friends, who were not wearing masks, told The Daily Mail: “We did our makeup to hang out and did not want to ruin it. Sweat and makeup is not a good combination, and it can be dangerous to sit in a hot mask on a long journey like we had.” Dangerous… yeah, right. What was that Bob Dylan song I started this Blog with again?

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here, not so much a line out of Dante’s Divine Comedy but from Boris’s Wretched Bloody Tragedy.

“So you’re going to see, I think, close to the highest infection rates in the world… that’s what we’re heading towards”

Speaking on Sky News last night, Professor Michael Baker of New Zealand’s Department of Public Health, a foremost expert on the pandemic, warned that due to the UK’s leadership position in the world, its latest measure may weaken the resolve of many governments to continue with strong public health measures.

He added: “High transmission of the virus along with moderate vaccine coverage is a perfect environment to create vaccine resistant variants. We have already received seen the Alpha variant emerging in the UK; we may see more dangerous variants with this strategy that the UK is pursuing.

“You’ve got full vaccine coverage of around 54.75% of the [UK] population. That is not enough to interrupt transmission of the virus. So you’re going to see, I think, close to the highest infection rates in the world… that’s what we’re heading towards. And millions of mainly young people getting infected over the next few months with all the consequences that come with it, including long COVID and other effects that are not fully understood.

“I think that slogans like Freedom Day and suddenly abandoning all public health measures, and saying it’s up to personal responsibility is really the government abrogating its critical role. It’s like saying, ‘You’re all out in the jungle and it’s everyone to themselves. And I think that’s a very bad model that the UK Government is presenting to the world.”

Out in the jungle, yes. But the most dangerous creature around is back running the Zoo.

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