There is no question that we are all, globally, experiencing a unique social phenomena - that of social restriction, engagement and interaction. The COVID-19 crisis has rapidly moved across the entire globe requiring our leadership to impose measures designed to inhibit the transmission of the virus and enable our healthcare resources to manage the process of recovery from within their capacities.
Some nations are taking this on-board in different ways. Much depends upon other factors than just the virus itself - urban population densities, national habits and freedoms and, perhaps most significantly, our ability and desire to mingle closely with other people. All of these, and more, interact in our attempts to stop the virus transmitting more widely. The Swedes crop up as an exceptional example in this. Admittedly, they have a much smaller and more widely distributed population than the UK, but whilst they have social distancing and stay at home measures, they are not mandatory, only advisory. People still socialise in Stockholm, bars and restaurants are open - there is an air of carefully considered behaviour at work. In short, the Swedish government trusts its citizens to behave responsibly and take responsible measure to protect the community at an individual level. Much is said about the discipline and self-control of the Swedes - and this surely is a factor in their national behaviour and response to the viral crisis - and of their superior tech-savvy ability to work from home, remotely but effectively. There hasn't been a significant impact upon Swedish industry because their workforce is flexible, adaptive and regarded as individually responsible. So far, this is quite a unique approach in itself.
We cannot draw exact comparisons between Sweden and Britain - we are quite different in a number of ways - but the contrast does seem to raise the question of personal discipline, responsibility and community consideration here in Britain. We laud our carers, quite rightly, our media pumps out tales of community spirit, equally rightly, yet there remains a strata of the population that have not engaged with the restriction measures the government are now on the verge of enforcing more stringently - and this strata is the dangerous one that can perpetuate viral spread to everyone else's cost. Look around, you will see those that are ignoring responsible curtailment measures and merely suiting themselves. It would be wrong to suggest they are anything other than a minority, but they are there, and their behaviour presents risk to the sensible majority. The very fact that the government are having to consider more penal enforcement is a recognition that our society, our social structures and sense of individual responsibility is not as comprehensively evident at ground level as it might appear elsewhere. Our history has led us to a position of maximising our freedoms, albeit somewhat skewed by an obsession with political correctness, and our society has come to expect that it can pretty much do what it likes. Recent decades of cut-backs in policing, military and national infrastructures, eg, nuclear power, electrification, transport, etc, and not least the NHS have all been indicative of a slacker, more laissez-faire approach to Britain's national life. Until very recently, successive governments have got away with constantly eroding the investments that other nations have continued to make in national infrastructure. COVID-19 has brought that shortcoming into a stark reality.
Yet blaming the past is not a solution - it may well highlight the way for a future behaviour model - but in the here and now we have to have our government enforce compliance to the measures deemed necessary. In this we must trust. But let us all reflect on how we, as individuals, exercise responsibility and discipline in these unique times - it is the very condition that will get us all through this crisis if we are true to our beliefs in ourselves.