All right, we all know that it’s not polite to gloat. There’s nothing nice about smugness, for it’s always at someone else’s expense. There are certain things which we all know are not acceptable, at least not in public. We all have these feelings, but when we’re with others, we tend to hide our desire to boast about how great we are, about how we have succeeded where others have failed.
Pride comes before a fall, we all know that, and the habit of talking about how great we are carries an inherent risk – that just as our self-praise leaves our lips, we might fall, and fall badly. We all have the ability to make arses of ourselves, so it’s best to accept that unfortunate ability and not make things worse by gloating insufferably before something (inevitably) goes pear-shaped. The whole of humanity recognises how fallible we all are, but if someone chooses to ignore that fact and brashly rubs success in the faces of others, then we can all surely be forgiven for tittering uncontrollably when they end up arse over tit, can’t we? Humans are liable to err, it’s only a matter of time. A combination of good manners and common sense encourage us to keep our egos in check... as I said, none of us are fallible, and nobody likes a braggart.
In Britain, the long-awaited ‘freedom day’ (which sounds awfully American to me) has just been delayed. The plan to re-open Britain has hit a snag, namely that of government becoming ever-more concerned about the rise in Covid infections due to the Indian variant (more on that later). At a press conference held after several days of leaked information which somewhat negated the need for an official press conference, Boris Johnson informed Britain that the new date for the reopening of Britain is now 19 July.
Restrictions which had been due to be lifted on 21 June will not end now until 19 July... potentially. Even as Johnson delivered the news of the 4-week delay to the final step of reopening Britain, he acknowledged that if a new Covid variant were to emerge, then the plan to open on 19 July could well be thrown off course. No ‘cast iron’ guarantees are being offered.
Of course, all of this is anything but clear to those of us watching from afar. Here in Hungary, as life returns to normal ever more quickly, we still face challenges to our plans to live life as we used to, but that seems to have more to do with the less social-minded members of our society. It’s these socially-isolated people, some convinced that a vaccine to prevent serious illness and death is potentially worse than serious illness and death, some who are by nature determined to be nothing but contrary, who are preventing the complete rescinding of restrictions. In the UK, the problem is far worse than here.
In the UK, the Indian variant is to blame for the delay. Of course, it’s no longer done in the UK to call ‘the Indian variant’ ‘the Indian variant’. The latest advice from the WHO is to call it ‘the delta variant’. Calling it ‘the Indian variant’ would lead to uncomfortable questions about the fact that the government knew that it was already present in the UK at the start of April, but didn’t stop people arriving from India until three weeks had passed. A cock-up of impressive size from the government there, in all probability linked to the fact that Johnson himself visited India for talks in April. To avoid offending the host nation by shutting down the possibility of flights from India to the UK, the British government told everyone when the flights would be stopped and thus ensured a flood of flights as people sought to beat the deadline.
Even without the benefit of hindsight, it seemed to be a risk poorly calculated. With hindsight, it’s practically impossible to see the silver lining.
And so, today in England, for the foreseeable future, the rules relating to ‘Step Three’ of the roadmap to lift lockdown restrictions, will remain in place. ‘Step Three’ entered into force on 17 May. Citizens in England were once more allowed to gather in groups of no more than six people when inside, no more than thirty people when outdoors. The British, for reasons unclear to me, have been somewhat preoccupied with people from different households throughout the coronavirus pandemic to date, and the ‘rule of six’ reflects that obsession. In lieu of up to six people meeting indoors, two households of any size may meet indoors, which seems to render the ‘rule of six’ irrelevant, at least in part. The rule relating to social distancing, that of keeping 1 metre from others, remains in place. Face masks are still required to be worn. Pubs, bars and restaurants can open indoors, museums and cinemas can reopen, and outdoor events are permitted to either a maximum of 4,000 people or 50% of the available capacity, whichever is lower.
As you struggle, as I did, to get your head around those, consider the next batch: social distancing and close physical contact with your friends and family has now been determined to be a matter of personal judgement. That last one blew my mind. In Hungary we suffered under lockdown conditions, but it would appear that we didn’t even come close to the levels the British achieved. Such is the apparent psychological damage that people are having trouble deciding whether it’s safe to hug family members! That’s deep trauma for you, something we have been spared.
The list continues... no limit to the number of attendees at funerals, up to 30 people can attend weddings and other events. But there’s a caveat with the weddings – the restrictions on dancing and singing remain in place. You’re not even allowed to sing hymns! So, it’s not going to be much of a celebration, is it? Even if you do decide to go ahead, during both the ceremony and the reception, when indoors, everyone is required to wear face masks. During the ceremony, the bride and groom and the person conducting the ceremony are not required to wear face masks. Remember to be grateful for small mercies, eh?
There is also one rather disturbing aspect which highlights the difference in approach that we can see between the English (for the other members of the union have long since decided that the way forward is to follow their own paths) and the Hungarians. That is that the scientists over there seem to be some of the most pessimistic scientists to be found anywhere in the world. From what is reported in the media, their bywords are ‘doom’ and ‘gloom’, repeated ad infinitum.
Add to that the fact that the scientists advising the British government throughout the pandemic have repeatedly displayed the sort of flip-floppery that Hungarians can pretty much only expect to see displayed by Jobbik, Kings of the U-turn. Flip-floppery aside, however, there has been no Cecília Müller, no regular reassuring press conferences where clarity has reigned supreme. In place of that Boris Johnson managed to fall out with the man who organised his Brexit campaign, Dominic Cummings. And his departure wasn’t quiet, either.
Embroiled in scandals regarding the breaking of various lockdown rules, more recently, Cummings levelled accusations at the Health Secretary, ensuring that as far as the sport of shooting yourself in the foot is concerned, the Hungarians, for all their traditional, communist-inspired belief of being the worst of the worst, are crass amateurs when compared to the Brits. Truly, the Brits have developed a natural talent for fermenting dissent into a world-beating exhibition of how to tear society apart at the seams. Even now, months after his dismissal, Cummings is still a thorn in the side of the government. Called to appear before a select committee, he revealed that all was not well with the British government’s approach to the impending Covid pandemic. According to Cummings, the government was in chaos, led by a man who’s not fit for the job, with the Health Secretary Matt Hancock described as someone who should have been sacked 15 or 20 times.
Perhaps the only relevant aspect of this tirade from Boris Johnson’s former chief aide is that the chaos resulted in ‘tens of thousands’ of unnecessary deaths.
As we restart life, we have to face certain problems. We have to deal with the remaining idiots in our society who think that they are protected from all ills by some sort of modern-day sorcery. We have to somehow continue to try and get the message through the skulls of those who, having been vaccinated throughout their lives with no ill effects, are now convinced that the whole pandemic is merely a grand conspiracy which seeks to brainwash everyone into believing that the earth is round, or something. We have to try to persuade people that vaccination is obviously better than death.
We have all this ahead of us, and there will be people who, out of pure contrariness, will never succumb to the idea that well-educated, well-trained scientists probably know more about viruses than your average Facebook user. But take a moment to consider that no matter how bad it is for us, at least the vast majority of us are rowing in the same direction. We’ve had clear instructions about what’s happening and what’s expected to happen, and for all of those who’ve bothered to look, the information regarding our release from lockdown is there for all to see.
Remember, there are other examples out there. Examples which reduce our worries to practically nothing. As far as rowing in the same direction goes, we’re light years ahead of the rest of them.
Don’t gloat, but be aware that our troubles are not as substantial as they might be. Be thankful for what we’ve got. Be thankful that we don’t have that which others do. To give us all an idea of how far ahead of the game we are, the Germans are now mocking the British for being so far behind them. And we’re streets ahead of the Germans.