Mary Kelly: Here's a thought – the government should take the advice of the scientists paid to advise it

People are losing faith because they have been asked to swallow too many mixed messages from those in power. We don't trust so easily this time round, so let us see the data

Labour leader Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons earlier this week. Picture by House of Commons/PA
Mary Kelly

IT’S grim up north. And thanks to a sharp rise in Covid 19 cases in Liverpool, Greater Manchester and also in our benighted part of the world, it’s getting grimmer.

There’ve been warnings of both economic ruin if further closures go ahead and dire health consequences if they don’t. It’s a difficult balance and there’s no sign of political unity on how we go forward.

Somebody stuck a firework in Keir Starmer’s pocket as he’s come out fighting at last, instead of looking mildly pained at Johnson’s inaction. Now he wants a “circuit breaker” total shutdown of at least two weeks.

Here, a late-night sitting of the Stormont Executive has come up with raft of tougher new restrictions which will see bars and restaurants closed for a month. It is clearly catastrophic for the hospitality sector, and hard to understand, especially since there was no big rise during the summer months when the pubs and restaurants were reopened.

People are losing faith because they have been asked to swallow too many mixed messages from those in power. Stay at home, eat out to help out, work from home, go back to the offices to help out the sandwich bars that need lunchtime trade. Or maybe let’s just blame the young people we asked to go back to universities before we asked them not to behave like students.

We don’t trust so easily this time round, so let us see the data. Let us study the facts about where and why the virus is spreading. Is it pubs and restaurants? Is it schools and colleges? is it people gathering at home? Is it a combination of all of these?

Oh, wait. That means we should have an effective track-and-trace system in place after all these months. But we haven’t.

Politicians have been fond of saying they’re following the science but it appears they don’t when it comes to a scrap between the boffins and the economists.

Last month the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) committee scientists suggested a “circuit breaker” of a two-week shut-down of pubs, restaurants, indoor gyms and other venues to stop infections spiralling out of control. But the government instead imposed a 10pm closing time for bars – 11pm over here.

Here’s an idea. Believe the scientists and take their advice.

* * *

THERE are apparently signs that Boris and co are desperately seeking to cosy up to Joe Biden as they’ve concluded Trump is a busted flush.

I wonder is the penny dropping with the Republican party which has shamefully provided cover for this disreputable and divisive president.

Let’s consider the calibre of some of those enablers. Mitch McConnell, leader of the Republicans in the Senate, takes hypocrisy to a whole new level. He prevented Obama from nominating a Supreme Court judge in 2016 “because it was an election year”. Yet he agrees to Trump’s nomination of uber-conservative Amy Coney Barrett, just weeks before the November election.

McConnell, a survivor of polio, didn’t attend her nomination celebration at the notorious super spreader event at the White House because he has already made it clear he wasn’t happy at the lack of masks and social distancing practised there. He might be a hypocrite, but he ain’t stupid.

When Trump, high on so many drugs he could’ve won the Tour de France, told a startled radio talkshow host he'd changed his mind about opposing the Democrats' request for a trillion-dollar stimulus package and instead wanted them to “go bigger” with even more funding, McConnell said no to the pandemic relief package.

“The situation is kind of murky,” he told reporters. "And I think murkiness is a result of the proximity to the election. And everybody is kind of trying to elbow for political advantage.”

Hmm, like stacking the Supreme Court?

* * *

AH, MR Bond, we’ve been expecting you. In fact, we were expecting you this autumn, and now you’re keeping us waiting until next spring, by which time there’ll be a lot fewer cinemas still open to screen your latest adventures.

Last week Cineworld closed 127 sites across the UK. Talk about a licence to kill jobs.

It’s obvious that going to the pictures is becoming a thing of the past. Last Friday night we shared an entire cinema with just one other couple.

The big screen has survived many predictions of its demise, from the rise of television to the video boom and then the arrival of streaming giants like Netflix and others, so hopefully it will also weather this storm.

There’s still something of an occasion about sitting in a cinema with the lights going down and the excitement of seeing a film on a big screen. And I don’t even like popcorn.

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