Politicians who claim credit for the achievements of science cause as much harm to the objective credibility of science, as those who altogether deny its veracity. To be fair I don’t think many people take Robert Abela’s bluster seriously. He hasn’t quite charmed supporters of the Labour Party yet. They take his bullishness with a pinch of salt and wait cautiously for an electoral success before they give in to blind faith.
People who do not support the Labour Party in any case, find him a little bit ridiculous. Yesterday he took the floor speaking about the end of the coronavirus as if he has anything to do with the effort to bring it about. “I want us to return to normal by May,” he said. Is he going to write covid a strongly worded letter? If this was just a matter of wanting the end of the crisis, why doesn’t the prime minister want it finished this morning, or last June when he already said it had been done with?
It takes a little bit more than “wanting”. There are good reasons to look forward to the end of the coronavirus crisis. We won’t have Robert Abela to thank for that. We’ll be thanking instead a global scientific effort that studied and understood the virus, researched, developed and tested a vaccine for it and if all goes according to plan disseminates it within a very short period of time.
Ours will be the first generation so well armed to fight back on a global pestilence. And future generations will, thanks to this experience, be somewhat better prepared.
It would be nice if this could slap those anti-vaxxers, or climate change deniers, or creation-delusionists into learning to appreciate what this species owes the rigour of scientific research. Not likely.
Now that it seems clear that there is light at the end of the tunnel, there will be an ever-greater temptation to stop caring about stopping the spread of the virus. But even the most optimistic scenarios where all goes well with the available vaccines, warn that we need to continue to be disciplined at least until the summer of next year.
Now that we can reasonably look forward to the end of this, it should be relatively easy to hold tight for another few months. Too many people have died and too many people will die if we behave as if the crisis was already over or as if there was no end to the crisis in sight so we justify the deaths as collateral damage to a moral imperative of going on as if nothing ever happened.
Robert Abela criticised people he says delight in the number of deaths. That’s so incredibly unfair. No one finds anything positive whatsoever in any one death as a result of covid. But many find it their moral duty to call out the government when they believe the government could have done something to prevent that death. Instead of trying to claim credit for finding a vaccine for the coronavirus, Robert Abela should assume responsibility for the mixed signals he is sending.
Black Friday week-end was a welcome bonanza for a certain type of shop. Some were positively crowded. I can understand why they feel relief and why they are pleased with a prime minister who allowed it to happen. In the meantime though, the ITU at Mater Dei is seriously stretched, hospital staff are exhausted and demoralised and though there is some sort of equilibrium in the way resources are absorbing demand no one has any illusion this can take on far greater numbers without collapsing.
Even if you can call what the hospital is going through right now an “equilibrium”, this is a balance that is allowing a handful of people to die every day. For each one that dies, a hundred suffer, and a thousand cower in fear at home. There are some 4,000 in quarantine right now and too many of them contracted the disease interacting with others with behaviour that is inappropriate at the time of a pandemic.
Now that Black Friday weekend shopping is done with, staff at Mater Dei brace themselves for any impact from the free for all social interactions of the last 48 hours. This is an as yet unmeasured sacrifice on the altar of irrepressible consumption that could not be made to miss a shopping bargain even for one, single, covid-infected year.
Hospital staff are also bracing themselves for what will happen after Christmas. It is fine for Robert Abela to uncork champagne about his boat-trip plans as of next May. But yesterday he should have first spoken about this December. He should be telling people to bear the pain just a little longer. To avoid eating out or in each other’s houses a little longer. To keep grandparents away from schoolchildren a little longer. To take time off to spread supermarket shopping a bit more evenly for a little longer. To work from home a little longer.
Instead, except for masks (which are a good thing) and bars (sort of) things are for most people not too far from business as usual. At this rate too many will die by the time Robert Abela will triumphantly claim he has cured the survivors of covid.