"Creeping Normalcy" in the Plague Age
Britain is experiencing a new wave of Covid cases, 40,000 per day. Yet it hasn't caused much reaction from the public. It sounds like the legendary stiff upper lip, the "Keep Calm and Carry On" resolve. Health officials think it's something much more troubling.
“We’re in a phase where we still have large numbers of people dying from this disease,” said Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh. “But it has gone into the background. We’ve become used to something that has not gone away. I think there’s been a desensitisation to the mortality.”
On Thursday, the UK reported more than 45,000 new coronavirus cases – the most since mid-July – and more than 800 deaths were reported in the past seven days. Hospitalisations are rising, with one-fifth of ICU beds occupied by Covid patients, and the latest figures showed an estimated 200,000 pupils absent from school.
The UK is faring far worse than its European neighbours, with a rate of deaths per million people nearly triple those seen in France, Germany and Italy.
There's a fine but critical line between stiff lip resolve and resigned fatalism.
“The idea that everyone is accepting the new normal is very dangerous,” said Prof Stephen Reicher, a psychologist at the University of St Andrews. “Then you reinforce a sense of fatalism.”
According to Reicher, the government has been “systematically normalising” the UK’s current rate of infections.
“They’ve been acting like this is inevitable, seeming relaxed about infections going up,” he said. “People often want a generic psychological explanation, but we mustn’t ignore the political and ideological context in which this is happening. We’re looking at a phenomenon of normalisation.”
Once again this pits the partisan political interest against the public interest. Given a choice, the pols throw the public to the dogs.
“It feels very surreal that we are just accepting the current infection rates. No one is making a fuss about it, but well over 100 people are dying every day due to Covid,” said Kit Yates, a senior lecturer in mathematics at the University of Bath.
“The government has abandoned all pretence at public health measures to control Covid. It’s a national scandal, but one which seems to have largely slipped from view.”
Why do names such as Jason Kenney, Scott Moe and Doug Ford keep popping to mind?