There's genuine fear in London at the moment, as if we are all staring straight at the apocalypse. Not just fear of Coronavirus – many of us think we're too young, fit and healthy for that. But more often fear for our jobs, homes, and families. The uncertainty of what we should all be doing does not help. WhatsApp groups buzz with invites out for drinks – well, it's either that or sitting at home in front of the news.
It may take weeks, perhaps months but eventually we'll come through this crisis and when we do, we need to fight to build a stronger country. This time, though, with the view that a stronger country does not necessarily equate to a 'stronger economy' - at least by the measures in place 3 months ago.
In that world, pre-COVID-19, a strong economy was one with a high GDP, a booming stock market and falling unemployment. But it's clear now how fragile and manipulated those things are. When faced with life, death and a lack of toilet roll, ultimately, none of those things matter.
We have for years pursued endless economic growth, at the behest of anything else. We've exploited 'key-workers' on zero-hours contracts, paying them little. We've underfunded the NHS and just about every other public service. We've prioritised financial growth encouraging big businesses to push beyond their means as the rich have got richer. But when we stop buying our Pret sandwich. When we stop going to the gym. And when we no longer order that pint at the local pub, then everything falls apart. When we stop doing those things, the financial instruments that these day-to-day tasks feed into simply collapse. Our country collapses.
When we do come through this pandemic we will have the very real opportunity to rebuild our country. Just as Britain did post-war and just as it has done many times prior.
This time that stronger country has to be one which puts people first. That stronger country has to be one which puts public health at its forefront.
Public health in the context of this pandemic makes it all so real. So easy to visualise, but as we go deeper it's not viruses alone which restrict us. Mental health. Social care. Obesity. All of these are public health crises in their own right. We just simply never cared because back then those people were broadly invisible. Minuscule in the context of the economy, therefore disposable in the context of our country.
So as we rebuild we must build a country which considers their people's health and wellbeing as the primary indicators in the country. Because as the last 2 weeks have shown us all – when we're all laid bare, that's all that matters.