IAIN ROBERTSON 

VW lines up managers and politicians receiving Chinese PPE

VW lines up managers and politicians receiving Chinese PPE

Realising that he is hardly alone in questioning the premature return-to-work strategy being exercised almost wholesale across the UK motor industry, Iain Robertson is concerned about other factors and fears surrounding the Coronavirus outbreak.

According to some disturbing news reports emerging from China, Germany and the USA, in early-May, a lessening of Covid-19 restrictions in those nations may be leading to a ‘second wave’ of hospitalisations that might overwhelm their health organisations. Despite the horrendous psychological impact in which being under ‘house arrest’ has placed all of us, much of it can be centred on the lack of socialising that we, as mostly sociable creatures, crave.

Being locked away is proven to have benefits in reducing dramatically the effects of spreading the disease. As a one-man-band writer, squirreling away in my ‘draughty garret’ (actually a pleasantly temperature controlled, upstairs bedroom), I am highly familiar with being cloistered away from neighbours and friends. It is par for my course. Yet, the mental impact related to timing ‘escapes’ to the shops (once a week) and making contact with friends and loved ones strictly by telephone and not enjoying a McDonald’s café latte, or pancakes and bacon on a Saturday morning at a local cafeteria, does demand compensations, none of which are great for my waist!

Bentley restarts production

Bentley restarts production

However, despite the immense voting power, let alone tax generating potential for the UK plc, for our government to allow carmakers to resume manufacturing at such a crucial time during the development of Covid-19 is, I believe, foolhardy at best. Even in the most robotised of vehicle production plants, the possibility of one line worker being a lot closer than two metres apart from another is well nigh impossible. Frequently, installers and operators need to work in pairs and it is not unfeasible for up to four, or five souls to be working on each vehicle in elbow nudging close proximity…and facemasks and overalls are insufficient in halting viral transmission.

Yet, the motor industry was very quick to speed to the service of the NHS. Hardly a man-jack of them could resist producing air pumps, rebreathing devices, visors and gowns (and putting out press releases to that effect, not that it was seeking public accord). While it could be surmised that our government was caught with its pants down, when the first UK diagnosed cases of the virus were reported, to be fair to it, it has been addressing most of the demands, not without hiccoughs, especially when having to deal with bulk suppliers of personal protective items, at a time when international demand could never have been more frantic, or emergent.

However, equally quick was the government’s three-word whip, ‘Protect The NHS’, the irony of which has not been lost on me. For a government department, which is what it is, that has been ‘under assault’ both obviously and covertly by the same government, with staff that are paid for the jobs they are contracted to expedite, to carry out a ‘volte face’ and make each and every one of us bear the responsibility for NHS is not only devious but intrinsically wrong. The ‘hijacking’ of a 99-years old retired captain, who wanted to raise a few quid as a ‘Thank You’ to his local NHS is actually duplicitous. Okay. We all need some ‘feel-good’ stories during times of crisis but ladling on the Rich Tea and sympathy and reinforcing the novel resurrection campaign for the NHS is not playing fair.

Fiat workshop staff keeping NHS cars on the road

Fiat workshop staff keeping NHS cars on the road

For the vast majority of us, the past seven(-ish) weeks have amounted to cases of busying ourselves between reading, hearing, or viewing the Covid-19 fatality reports, without mention of survival rates, delivered by a one-sided and transparently complaining media that seems to know no bounds in asking unanswerable questions, repeatedly, en-route to manufacturing sensational headlines that are designed to instil ever greater fear within the populous. Every ‘official’ voice repeats the same, judiciously stage-managed, three-word-whip mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Just as the art of ‘virtue signalling’ has transmogrified from being largely empty acts of public commitment to unexceptional good causes, into socially acceptable alignment with issues and ideologies, if any one of us dares to question the remit, however, faux, or fay, it may be, the ‘witch brand’ is reared. While it is a governmental ideal to channel its population into its mindset, our government can consider itself many times blessed that we all filed into compliance largely without argument and in the main self-policed.

While talk is rife about potential ‘cures’, the currency of conspiracy is growing in the background. To establish any cure, the origins of the virus must be ascertained and, until they are, a cure is unlikely. In light of that and the simple fact that virus testing (over 120,000 a day apparently, which sounds almost as vainglorious as £350m being pumped into the NHS every week, following the exit from the EU construct) is not necessarily producing the statistical results that are also essential to a population of over 60million.

Ford makes facemasks at Dunton

Ford makes facemasks at Dunton

Yet, our government appears to be bowing to ‘public pressure’ to release us from ‘house arrest’. Trust me, when I tell you, I am not alone in desiring that the programme of self-isolation continues for some time yet. Yet, the saintly motor industry appears to be beyond reproach and is being treated as ‘essential services’, like NHS staff, supermarket employees and garage forecourt staff. In my eyes, there is something incredibly wrong in relieving it of the shackles so prematurely.

Naturally, as carmakers return to the coalface, so too is the garage trade, many members of which have remained open, albeit with furloughed skeleton staff manning the ramps under the guise of satisfying ‘essential users’ demands. However, you can take it as read that they are also open to window-shoppers and their pet animals. Only the Good Lord alone will appreciate the amount of non-social distancing that will occur, whether browsing, or not.

Conclusion:      No matter how ‘urgent’ may be a private, or company individual’s desire to swap cars, whether old for newer, or box-fresh new, there is no reason for such an acquisition to be considered ‘essential’. Fanning the virus fumes is not a viable solution to returning to a ‘new normal’.

Skoda recommences manufacturing

Skoda recommences manufacturing