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  • Writer's pictureMike Nelson

'Clap For Our Carers' Has Ended And I'm Delighted

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

Every Thursday for the last 10 weeks, hundreds of thousands of people across the UK have been taking part in a round of applause to show their appreciation for the efforts of our NHS and care workers during the Covid-19 crisis. While it captured the imagination of the British public and the attention of the media, the gesture had become ritualistic and pointless, and I for one am glad that it has come to an end.

The idea to ‘Clap for our Carers’ was devised by Dutch-born Londoner Annemarie Plas after seeing similar events happen across Europe in The Netherlands, Italy and Spain. As the UK went in to lockdown, the inaugural applause took place on Thursday 26th March with thousands responding to the call. That first event, and subsequent events occurring during the epicentre of the crisis felt poignant as participation grew against the backdrop of the hundreds of deaths caused by Coronavirus.

What changed?

Firstly, the realisation of the scale to which the Government had misjudged and mismanaged the pandemic. The NHS staff and carers we all clapped for, already under pressure because our health care system has been underfunded and slowly dismantled by successive Tory governments for the last decade, were presented as soldiers in the ‘fight’ to ‘combat’ Coronavirus. Somehow it was hoped that, in this 'battle' against Covid-19, it would be easier to accept the death of a nurse trying their best to save a life despite the chronic lack of PPE, or an elderly doctor coming out of retirement to answer the call because there's a huge gap in the number of healthcare professionals in the NHS. It's easier to accept the death of a soldier in the line of duty. Less so a doctor or nurse who's been failed by those they rely on to provide the life saving equipment they obviously needed.

There are plenty more examples of their shortcomings too.

Heading in to lockdown too late and allowing large events such as the Cheltenham Festival to take place up until the very last minute, despite the early warnings we had from Italy and Spain that this was something to be taken seriously. The farce of their attempts to increase testing capacity to reasonable levels, and a minister who couldn’t hit his own target so decided to fudge the figures to try to pull the wool over our eyes. Even now while they ease lockdown, despite all evidence suggesting the number of new infections has not decreased significantly and the number of excess deaths are still much higher than they are anywhere across the continent. By their own measures through the Covid Alert System, we are moving too fast. Our current status is level four, suggesting the risk is still severe, yet allowing sport to restart and our critically vulnerable people to leave their houses are measures which are associated with there being no threat of Covid-19 at all.

Given the Government's failure to adequately protect our NHS and care workers, simply clapping no longer seemed a reasonable way to show our support. Better to pressure Johnson, Hancock, et al. to force them to rectify their mistakes.

Secondly, the sheer lack of compassion so many seemed to show as they continuously broke lockdown for their own gain. For everyone staying home and avoiding contact as much as possible, there seemed to be as many people flaunting lockdown and putting lives at risk by meeting in large groups in parks, at the beach and at their own homes for the VE Day anniversary celebrations. In supermarkets across the country, shelves were stripped bare and staff were subjected to verbal abuse by overprivileged customers as certain items became hard to find.

Even among those that govern us, the very people who implored us to save lives by locking ourselves away, there were those ready to decide the rules didn’t apply to them. While there are multiple examples from across the political divide, the most astonishing story is undoubtedly that of the PM's Chief Advisor Dominic Cummings who, at the height of lockdown, drove 260 miles from his London home to spend time on his parent’s estate in Durham while he and his wife were showing Coronavirus symptoms. Then came the cringe-worthy public address where Cummings tried to explain it away, as well as the 30-mile trip to Barnard Castle to 'test his eye-sight', as if we were stupid and wouldn't find out it just so happened to be on the day of his wife's birthday. A slap in the face for all those doing their utmost to stick to the guidelines to protect the NHS and each other.

So yes, I’m relieved that the ritual of clapping to show our support is coming to an end. It became a futile and hollow gesture masking the abject failure of the Government to get to grips with the situation, while simultaneously exposing just how selfish so many people really are. If there's any good to come from it, as Annemarie said when suggesting the 10th week of clapping should be the last, it is now popular opinion that it's time the Government rewarded our key workers with better pay, better working conditions and a better quality of life. It's the least they deserve for hauling us through this crisis.

As for everyone else, we should each take a long hard look in the mirror. Can you honestly say you’re doing everything you can to mitigate the risks of spreading infection and support our key workers in the process? Or, by inviting hairdressers around to cut your hair, crowding on beaches and having house parties, has the collective applause of millions across the nation fallen on deaf ears?

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