Planning for a probably second wave

It won’t have escaped anybody’s attention that COVID infection rates are rising across the country, and in Staffordshire. We’re not in the formal level of government intervention, like our colleagues in Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell, and in an increasing number of other urban centres across the North and Midlands, but it is a concerning situation. We heard a pretty stark warning from the Government’s chief scientific adviser this morning about the rise in case numbers, and the need for swift action to curb it. We need to get ready for what is likely to be a difficult winter.

I raise this, as we haven’t really had a period of respite since the onset of the initial outbreak in March. No sooner had the initial wave passed, than we got stuck into recovery planning, reopening society and the economy and getting our schools reopen. We now have to plan for a probable second wave, and all that entails, before we have a functioning vaccine which will, hopefully, put Covid-19 in the same place as other illnesses and diseases such as winter flu.

It is often said that unpleasant experiences are marathons, not sprints, but, in this case, that is a simplification – we won’t be running at the same rate at all times in the coming months. If there is a better athletic simile, it might be that it is more like a relay race.  There will be difficult days when we are working flat out, when we will need the support of friends, loved ones and colleagues. We’re used to that, and we’ve got a string of achievements behind us, of which we can be rightly proud. But there will also be days, or periods of days, when the pressure is off, and we have to learn to switch off when we can. If you will forgive me for drawing from my experience leading on military operations, one of the tricks to getting through is not to feel guilty about relaxing when the opportunity arises. The other aspect of a relay is that it requires teamwork; you must look out for your colleagues and friends, make time for yourselves, and take leave when you can.

I’ll admit that I’m not especially good at this – I find it hard to disengage – but I work at it, and will have to work at it harder in the coming weeks and months, because, like many colleagues, I’m tired, but we have to keep going. Let’s work on this together.

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