If I got a fiver for every time someone has said ‘When this is all over’, followed by something really uplifting and upbeat like, ‘We’ll all get together and get absolutely shit-faced at our local pub’, I’d be a very rich man. I’d also be significantly better off if I got a fiver for every time I’d said it. It reminds me of the line from the Beach Boys’ Wouldn’t It Be Nice: ‘Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray, it might come true?’ But what if it doesn’t.
In the Hate Mail on Sunday, Alex ‘Call Me Boris’ Johnson announced a further £93 million of government spending to help mass produce the much hoped for vaccine for COVID-19. I can see the queues building at my local already (for the beer, not the vaccine). We’ll spill out into the street and village green to celebrate. But then, later in his article, Johnson pisses on his own fireworks to quietly add that we might never find a vaccine. What? We might never find a vaccine. You mean, things will be like this forever?
Here’s a startling fact: no coronavirus vaccine has ever been produced. Not one. If scientists come up with one for COVID-19, it will be a first. It’s a fact that many viruses have proved to be impossible to vaccinate against. Many viruses, like the common cold, can be a real nuisance but they rarely kill people. COVID-19 is a killer and if we never find a vaccine, a return to that rammed local pub may never happen.
I’m well into the realms of speculation here because even our best scientists know little about this new virus, let alone a know-nothing-about-science person like me. We don’t yet know if once you have had the new virus you are immune from getting it again and if you did get immunity, how long would it last for?
That’s not to say that pubs, restaurants, shops and the like will never re-open. It just means we will need social distancing to become the norm. The same applies to going on holiday. We’ll still be able to go, but again social distancing will be everything. Longer check-ins at airports (upwards of five hours is the current suggestion), less packed aircraft and the same social distancing at the other end. It’s all do-able, for sure, but it will be slower, more complicated and, inevitably vastly more expensive. Everything will be. Airlines will still need to make money with fewer passengers and the only way they can do that is by making vast increases in air fares.
I haven’t even mentioned the sport and leisure industry. Will we ever see large crowds at sporting events? Will there ever be stadium rock shows or even crowded arena tours? What will happen to smaller music venues? There’s loads to think about. None of it potentially good news.
‘When this is all over’ should really be ‘If this is all over’ because it might never be over, just less draconian arrangements than we have now. It is likely that the real death toll in the UK exceeds 50,000. Would there be anything to celebrate anyway?