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Street Talk

By Mickey Howley

On Monday Boris Johnson, the 55 year-old American born British Prime Minister of England and leader of the Conservative Party, stated that the UK is at the moment of maximum risk in the coronavirus outbreak and he urged people not to lose patience with the lock down. 

“We cannot throw away all the effort and sacrifice of the British people and risk a second major outbreak and risk a huge loss of life.” Ending it too soon could lead to a second spike in cases and cause more deaths, “economic disaster” and restrictions being reintroduced, he said.

Johnson has first-hand experience, he had Covid-19, he was in the hospital for over a week, three days in the intensive care unit. Two weeks ago, in his first post hospital address to the country from the steps of 10 Downing Street, he praised the medical team that saved him as he was fighting for oxygen and his life. He named a number of doctors and nurses, but then he paused and said he would especially like to thank two; “Jenny from New Zealand” and “Luis from Portugal.” They are the ones who stayed constantly by him while he was in the ICU and helped him stay breathing.

 That’s right, Boris Johnson, one of the prime Brexit engineers and the guy who got it finally done – and let’s not forget Brexit is an anti-immigration and anti-open borders movement by building a figurative wall and a withdrawal from the European Union – was thanking the immigrants who saved his life.

 Maybe it was his Shirley Chisholm visiting George Wallace in the hospital moment.

Not only did Johnson, in his speech, acknowledge our common humanity in this pandemic, but it is clear he has also changed official government policy. The Times, the major conservative daily newspaper, said of his failure to attend five early government national crisis committee meetings on the virus, when calls to order protective gear were ignored and scientists’ warnings fell on deaf ears are the “38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster.” 

Those failings in February may have cost thousands of lives. Johnson now seems a changed man, his stay in the ICU his epiphany.

 What is clear in a very unclear world situation is that this pandemic is both a health and economic crisis. And many leaders, not all, were woefully unprepared and re-acted way to slow. 

Johnson did praise those in the medical community as the finest among us; doctors, nurses, pharmacists, staff, and first responders. His comments about them working hard and asking people continuing to practice safe measures is important. It seems such an unequal time, with many not working or remotely working and schooling, to those working like crazy. 

What is perhaps unsung are the people on the Main Street economic front lines trying to help in this crisis as best as possible. Nobody immediately thinks of bankers and accountants when you say global pandemic essential personnel. But the scrambled response to the economic crisis has relied on those local people to be the disbursement facilitators for many employers and businesses. 

Without them and our federal government’s dependence on them, we would be in a much worse shape.

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