Wales, The Firebreak – A Re-run of The Prisoner?

The Welsh Dragon is no longer breathing flames. The “firebreak” has demonstrated that there is little resistance to the government line.

A short, sharp firebreak has been introduced across Wales to help regain control of coronavirus. This means that a series of restrictive measures will be in place from 6pm Friday 23 October until 12:01am Monday 9 November 2020.

The fortnight-long action is needed to save lives and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. Cases of coronavirus have been rising sharply in Wales as the virus has woken up for winter. While the national and local measures put in place across Wales have helped to keep that spread under check, there is a growing consensus that additional action is now needed.

Who forms this consensus? If numbers are growing, how then have existing measures helped to keep the virus in check? How can the closure of the remaining unlocked 25% of Wales, with little or no incidence, bring down the numbers where the virus is active? The official story says:

Between October 9 and 15, there were 4,127 new confirmed cases of coronavirus recorded by Public Health Wales, based on positive test results but the real level of infections will be much higher. The number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms is growing daily and sadly so too are the number of people dying with coronavirus.

What is the reality? Yes, cases, hospitalisation and mortality have increased, but not to crisis levels. The total of daily admissions for the quoted 7 day period 9th-15th October increased by 86 from the previous week. For the following seven days there was a decrease of 10 in the total of admissions.

Figures for patients discharged are never presented. Apparently no-one ever recovers. In a TV news interview when announcing the “firebreak”, Mark Drakeford inflated the numbers in Welsh hospitals for Covid-19 by 80% but has never been pulled up for it.

There are 10,562 NHS beds in Wales, according to NHS Wales. Drakeford claims they are providing 5000 extra to cope with the “expected surge”. The NHS was never overwhelmed. The Principality (Millennium) Stadium in Cardiff had a capacity of 2000 beds, but was closed in June.

At the height of the pandemic, it had a maximum of 46 patients. It was the only one of the 17 field hospitals set up during the pandemic that treated any patients, despite the exercise costing £166m, £3.6 million per patient. The latest number, (at 27/10) for Covid patients in all Welsh Hospitals is 685, six and a half percent of NHS permanent beds.

Regardless of such dubious evidence, the Welsh people appear to have accepted their lot. The phrase most commonly repeated in my small village is, “We’ve got to do it, haven’t we”. The Land of Song has been silent for months, there are few church services to speak of and any that have happened are without music. No singing of stirring Welsh hymns, because most people believe that to sing will spontaneously bring the virus upon them, the wrath of the Lord indeed.

People dutifully queue with masks outside the village shop, as only one at a time is allowed inside. The shopkeeper was roundly criticised for not wearing a mask all day. He compromised with a face shield.

This group acceptance has a powerful resonance with the 1967 cult drama series, The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan, especially as the location shooting was done in Portmeirion, North Wales, described in Wikipedia:

1967 British science fiction television series about an unnamed British intelligence agent who is abducted and imprisoned in a mysterious coastal village, most of the ‘residents’ are prisoners with others acting as guards

It isn’t too much of a stretch to apply this to the situation prevailing in many communities today, although most would not recognise the description. There were 17 “Prisoner” episodes. The description below is from one of them, (villagers have numbers rather than names).

Number 48 is charged with the most serious breach of social etiquette.

1) Total defiance of the elementary laws which sustain our community.
2) Questioning the decisions of those we voted to govern us.
3) Unhealthy aspects of speech (covid “denial”?) and dress not in accordance with general practice.
4) The refusal to observe, wear (a mask?) or respond to his number.

Escape from the fictional Village is nigh impossible and anyone who tries to do so is always caught and returned, not unlike the new regulations from the Welsh Government which has sanctions for “rule breakers”:

If you break these new laws:

You may be told to go home or removed from where you are and returned home. You could have to pay a fixed penalty notice of £60. This will rise to £120 for the second breach. Or you could have criminal proceedings brought against you, and if found guilty, you will have to pay a fine, (unlimited, and a criminal record). Local Authority Enforcement Officers have powers to enter homes.

The following is a commentary on the Prisoner series comparing the fiction with real life now. https://www.ncregister.com/blog/be-seeing-you-the-prisoner-cancel-culture-and-the-father-of-lies

Fiction:

What passes for civic life in the Village consists of repeating cheery slogans as meaningful communication. Celebrations may have lots of cheers but they are cheerless, reminiscent of the ‘celebrations’ of totalitarian regimes rather than those of free peoples.

Presciently, the Village’s inhabitants are forever parading through the streets waving flags with rainbow colors, whooping and clapping. Yet they also live in dread of not saying the right thing, of being seen not to be celebrating enough, of being individuals rather than part of the herd.

Fact: Greeting someone is accompanied by “You OK?”. Clapping the NHS was the socially acceptable thing to be seen to do. There are rainbow car stickers with the slogan “All in this together – Stay Safe”. Many houses have rainbow pictures in their windows, drawn by children and thanking the NHS.

It is wise to be circumspect when in conversation, because even people you think you know can surprise you. One resident told me the other day that people who don’t wear masks are the ones spreading the virus and they should be electronically tagged. The logic that masking hasn’t stopped the current increase in Covid numbers escapes them.

These are extracts from the current “Village” Regulations:

I live in Wales, can I go on holiday in Wales or the rest of the UK?
No. Travelling within Wales for a holiday is not one of the permitted reasons to travel under the Regulations. It is also not a reasonable excuse to travel to the rest of the UK for a holiday during the firebreak period.

I do not live in Wales, can I travel to Wales for a holiday or to visit family and friends?
No. Travel in to Wales is limited to essential travel only during the firebreak period, for example travelling for work purposes or to return home.

Can I go on holiday abroad?
No. Travel abroad is only permitted for people with a reasonable excuse.

The Regulations are in place to protect you and your loved ones from coronavirus and to prevent the onward spread of the virus to other areas of Wales, the UK and other countries.

Are accommodation businesses in Wales allowed to open?
No. All accommodation businesses are required to be closed.

Can services of Remembrance be held in a place of worship?
No. Places of worship will not be open to the public for Acts of Remembrance.

Can parades or marches be held to mark Remembrance this year?
No. Parades should not take place.

I have heard people say “this is only for another two weeks”, but they do not realise the deception that is being visited on them. The government website says:

Following the end of the firebreak, a new set of national rules will be introduced, covering how people can meet and how the public sector and businesses operate.

This is Wales: alive with adventure and opportunity. A great place to live, do business, study, and visit.

December 2022
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