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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

National Emergency

The dominant news this month is the invasive virus now affecting all our lives. No country or location is immune to the dangers of this infection emanating from China. Only now is the UK government fully awake to the dangers and untold consequences of the Corona Virus - and having to adjust with rapidity its early assumptions. Other european countries are rapidly issuing blanket border closures and drastic limits to freedom of movement across their borders - while the UK ponderously considers changes that may need to be made in due course.

The impact of this health risk is being abundantly felt by government agencies at all levels with society as a whole. Economic consequences will be costly, whether to individual small businesses as well as corporates of all sizes. The travel and hospitality sector being more immediately affected with radical drop in travel, both land, sea and air; road and rail. Cruise operators already are needing to lay up vessels and lay off staff mirroring the airline industry now flying almost empty planes and seeing bookings fall off a cliff.

Blackpool's heavily reliant leisure sector will only feel the full force of the UK's exposure to the corona virus spread just about the time that the traditional holiday season begins to ramp up. Disinclination for many to use public transport (of any kind) except for essential journeys will bear down on bus and tram travel on the Fylde coast making this year very

unpredictable as far as ridership and revenue is concerned. The need for ever frequent 'heritage tram' tours through much of the calendar year has to be highly questionable - and also requires 'deep cleaning' of trams inbetween tours. Testing of platform staff and crews for the viral infection being an additional burden on volunteers and the overall operation going forward. Indeed the registration of infection by a staff member within the depot, workshop or offices would necessarily call for measures to prevent further contamination and infection. Of course this goes for regular bus and tram services.

Translating these factors across the myriad bars, cafes and enclosed spaces in the town centre is going to inhibit much of the traditional lifestyle of the resort through the year - until the Corona virus is spent, if that is possible. Government edicts now pending on preventitive measures affecting much of the population underline the gravity of this pandemic. Older age groups being especially at risk whatever their status, whether retired or working. The NHS staff and allied healthcare professionals are deserving of our respect and full cooperation given they are the frontline of a war now being fought to protect lives.

If reducing public exposure by cancelling non essential events and limiting numbers of people attending functions and gatherings - will bring some measure of relief to hard pressed medical professionals - then so be it, whatever the economic consequences. It is no longer business as usual in this country - and hard choices are the order of the day, if not the year. The last time the world experienced such as shock to the system (other than by global conflicts) was in the final years of the Great War and onset of what became known as the 'Spanish Flu' even though that country had little or nothing to do with its origins. Millions died within a very short period following its outbreak in 1918. Perhaps we will look back at the present outbreak a hundred years later and think of it as the 'Chinese Flu' given its source in Wuhan Province. Some serious introspection is called for in the seemingly cavalier way food handling and its end use is tolerated in the PRC (and beyond).

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