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Wales, coronavirus and the class divide

TESS DELANEY reflects on how the virus outbreak might affect a country heavily reliant on tourism and with a large population of older people

IT’S human nature to go into shock in an emergency, and it looks like the nation is in shock. 

Here in Wales the public have again been split into opposite camps. 

As the schools closed and the sun came out, and Boris Johnson kept his advice just woozy enough to be indecipherable, the crowds flocked to Wales. 

Here in west Wales Tenby, Saundersfoot and Newport were rammed with tourists. 

The second-home owners had arrived, the camp sites filled up. In north Wales day-trippers flocked to the Snowdonia National Park to put their hands all over the rocks. It seems similar scenes occurred in English seaside towns. 

It has gone nuclear in this area. Facebook is awash with irate locals wondering why they have to lose their livelihoods and close their bars, cafes and other public spaces, yet the tourists are turning up in their droves and licking their ice-creams as per tradition. 

We rely heavily on tourism in this area, but still, the people want the aliens to disperse. I’ve never seen such desperation. 

If you’re local, you’re well aware that the local health services are stretched to breaking point at the best of times. 

The incomers don’t realise this. They’re used to just rocking up at A&E and filling out a form. 

In this county, however, many people struggle to get a doctor’s appointment in peacetime, let alone now. 

The wait in A&E is usually around seven hours if you’re lucky. All the shops are empty. 

Our infrastructure cannot cope with the incomers. We have 30 ventilators in Withybush hospital. 

It’s a very big county. And that’s our only hospital. And it’s already broken past repair, and essential services are being downgraded and shifted to Carmarthen, itself in need of a little TLC, to say the least. 

Luckily, the big campsite owners are closing down, the smaller will surely follow suit. 

One hopes that it’s explained to people with houses in the county who refuse to go back to their primary address, that there are no beds in the hospital for them. And no food for them to buy. 

And this is the interesting point. I see freedom-loving people, myself included, desperately pleading for a lockdown. 

We don’t want to take any chances with our elders, of whom there are many in Pembrokeshire. 

If this is worse for the elderly then we’re going to be inundated. Some 61 per cent of the population of the county is over 60. 

The trouble is with people not taking advice, is that it becomes necessary to impose and enforce rules. 

We become trapped in this purgatory of not wanting our liberties taken away, but not wanting our folks to die either. 

The shouting between the scared and the laissez faire is becoming as crass as the Brexit argument. 

That’s the bit that hurts me the most in all of this. When we should come together, people are still finding ways to be at each others’ throats. 

My own hope is that the virus will turn out to be less lethal than we thought, and that we can get a hold on it. 

But one thing I would like to see is a total break with the past in terms of the way we’ve been living. 
 
If this is as big as it seems to be then we should have been ready. It’s not like we haven’t known it was coming. 

Instead we’re faced with this situation where the mighty are falling. Politically, physically and economically. 

The billionaires will escape this. They always do. The working classes are used to this. Our lives fall apart most days. 

But to see the bourgeoisie getting upset at the lack of quinoa, and the loss of rent from their properties, and getting sent home from their holiday homes, and losing their assets with the fall in interest rates, and watching their unearned wealth disappear as the housing market inevitably drops to possibly an unprecedented level, where the old money is suddenly worth a lot less than it used to be — it’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out. 

At the very least, the middle classes are experiencing the kind of insecurity and uncertainty that others face of a daily basis. 

Let’s hope when this is all over they remember what it feels like to be in crisis and to need assistance. 

We’re always saying homelessness is two bad months away. Maybe we’re about to level the land.

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