‘…We are still struggling to put together a plan that would operationalize the “aggressive tracing and testing” we keep hearing being bandied about during those national addresses and which look good on PowerPoint presentations. But which, like many government plans and political campaign promises, are so divorced from reality.’
COMMAND and Control. That seems to be a natural, gut response of human beings when confronted with a challenge they need to overcome. How do I take control of the situation and begin barking out commands that others have to follow?
It is therefore should come as no surprise that men in uniform are the default choice to lead pandemic action teams based on the Command and Control response. Simplistic, but understandable – who other than them are better schooled in this type of a consciousness?
And when the challenge you face is a pandemic and the enemy is faceless and formless, the Command and Control response becomes even more pronounced. Lives are at stake. The enemy is anywhere and everywhere. So what do we do?
Lockdown! Checkpoints! Curfew! All together the perfect actualisation of Command and Control.
As the days go by and people start falling ill and dying, the threat starts to get closer to home. And if it appears that the enemy spares no one – old or young, male or female, rich or poor, healthy or not – then paranoia amplifies the issues as well as the Command and Control response mechanism.
This explains the “harshness” of the reaction of policemen to “violators” of quarantine regulations (unless of course the violator is a starlet turned highly paid functionary, or a Senator). Violators threaten the whole structure on which the Command and Control response rests. They also put the rest of us at risk. Hence they cannot be countenanced.
So don’t complain when you are treated roughly by the agents of Command and Control.
But Command and Control by themselves cannot stop a pandemic. In fact, on their own, Command and Control can make things worse. Because Command and Control are but means to an end – and that end is to surface the virus by identifying as many of those who have it and setting them aside so that the rate of infection and the risk of reinfections are both reduced.
If this is not understood — and if Command and Control are seen as the ends and not the means — then the pandemic moves quickly from being a mere threat to becoming a disaster
To keep this from happening we need another C – Competence. A competence that is clear on what has to be achieved and how best to achieve it. And in the case of this COVID-19 pandemic the Competence needed was the one that knew that what had to be done was “Trace Test Treat, Repeat.” Always. From Day 1. Nothing else but that.
Unfortunately for all of us while Command and Control was present and easy to resort to, it was not backed up by the Competence required from Day 1. So much so that three months or so after the threat of COVID-19 was first made public, we are still struggling to put together a plan that would operationalize the “aggressive tracing and testing” we keep hearing being bandied about during those national addresses and which look good on Power Point presentations. But which, like many government plans and political campaign promises, are so divorced from reality.
Without that Competence the grade I can give to our pandemic response is, at best, a C-Minus.