On escaping to the Highlands during a pandemic and preparedness

I think Prince Charles made a grave misjudgment in coming to the Highlands last weekend. He was apparently well when he travelled last weekend but the key point is not that he was well but that he travelled last weekend. It was prior to last weekend that it became clear people were trying to isolate themselves in second homes or holiday homes in the country. This was a problem because those people risked bringing the disease with them to communities without the same health infrastructure as cities. And this is exactly what Prince Charles has done.

We had a holiday house booked for the Easter holidays in the Highlands since last year but we made the decision a couple of weeks ago not to go because of the government’s advice to stay at home. It doesn’t seem fair that this advice should only apply to non-royalty when it’s clear the virus makes no such distinction. Since our decision was made the holiday house company we made our booking through then cancelled it anyway but the point is we made the decision ourselves first.

The Press and Journal article goes on to say he apparently travelled non-commercially. That doesn’t really make it any better. How, exactly? If he flew on a private jet then someone had to pilot the plane and there would have been airport staff exposed. If he drove up he’d have had to stop at petrol stations up and down the country. There’s also been criticism that Prince Charles was tested given most people showing symptoms do not have this privilege because of the shortage of tests. But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume it was necessary for trace and contact purposes since he’s likely to have been in contact with lots of people over the previous couple of weeks. But again, all the more reason for him to have followed government advice to stay at home. That said, I hope he makes a full recovery.

While on the whole, I am supportive of how the government is handling this crisis I do have some criticisms related to preparedness. I realise that everyone has 20/20 vision when it comes to hindsight so at the risk of stating the obvious, for years the government has been underfunding the NHS. We all know it and many people have been demanding this change. This is one reason I did not vote conservative – because of their underfunding of important public services on which we all depend. I hope that as one good thing to come out of this, we’ll start funding our NHS to the levels it requires when all this is over. The other criticism is, and I say this as someone who had her earthquake kit prepared well in advance of the Christchurch earthquake sequence starting, why don’t our health workers have protective gear? That to me is a hugely fundamental requirement and a grave oversight to have insufficient stockpiles of facemasks, goggles, and whatever else they need to protect themselves from infection. This is the sort of thing that’s cheap, can have a huge impact, and is easy to store. We knew there was a risk of this happening and after watching the BBC Pandemic documentary I can see the data has been available for at least a couple of years so it ought to have been easy enough to calculate how much was needed and squirrel it away somewhere. Why didn’t they do that? The testing kits shortage I understand – you can’t stockpile test kits for a virus that doesn’t yet exist. But facemasks? It doesn’t make any sense to me.