02 September 2020, The Tablet

We cannot go back to the way it was


Pope Francis has warned humanity that it is faced with a crucial choice. The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis affecting the whole world, he said, but “you can’t get out of a crisis the same. We come out better, or we come out worse … After the crisis, will we continue with this economic system of social injustice and contempt for the care of the environment, of Creation, of the common home?”

In a series of addresses being given at his weekly general audience, he is spelling out how he sees the challenge: “On the one hand, it is imperative to find the cure for a small but terrible virus, which is bringing the whole world to its knees. On the other hand, we must cure a great virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalisation and the lack of protection of the weakest.”

This is a very serviceable summary of the difficulties and dilemmas every government is facing, including the Government of the United Kingdom. Those difficulties and dilemmas are of a momentous scale, and no government in the world could expect to sail through such a time of trial unscathed. But the government of Boris Johnson has not distinguished itself even in such fallible company. According to a series of international statistical measures – number of cases and number of deaths in proportion to the population, the extent of economic damage and the poor rate of recovery – Britain is at or near the top.

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