Coronavirus will spread for a number of reasons. Ignorance, complacency and poverty. Politicians, aided and abetted by the media, are, in my judgement, incredibly out of touch with reality.
Ignorance and complacency form many of the same elements as we fear a pandemic. Just look at social networks. Whataboutery is the friend of ignorance and complacency where people attempt to point out irrelevant comparisons. More people die of seasonal flu, say some. More people die of starvation than are dying of coronavirus. It doesn’t matter if, for the moment, these things are true. Coronavirus has the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of people in our country and millions around the world.
A 50% infection rate would likely see the deaths of half a million people and some estimates indicate a worst case scenario of 80%. It may not come to this, but we don’t know that. Which is why the government’s belated advice should be followed. But it is the poverty aspect I fear most.
It is very easy for a millionaire cabinet minister like Dominic Raab to self-isolate and not come to work, not least because his salary will continue to be paid in full. An MP can not be disciplined for poor sick leave because she or he has no line manager. Nice work if you can get it. However, if you work in the gig economy, have a zero hour contract, are one of the hundreds of thousands in so called self-employment or simply earning the minimum wage, you may decide to take a chance if you feel you might have the virus.
Health secretary Matt Hancock says we have a “robust system” of benefits for working people who go sick. No, we don’t. Utter tosh. Not universally, anyway. Some people get full pay, some people get the bare minimum and the self-employed will get nothing. Hundreds of thousands of people are deemed to be self-employed as a way of allowing an employer to get around paying National Insurance and all the hassle that goes employing someone. This goes on everywhere from the building trade to barbers and hairdressers. If you have no money to put bread on the table for your family, will you really self-isolate and go hungry? Obviously, you should, but will you?
And is our “fantastic NHS”, as Boris Johnson calls it, really ready? In England, we have all but 15 beds for the most severe respiratory failure. 15. Of course, the NHS is not ready, cannot cope. How could it?
We still don’t get it. People are panicking, stripping the supermarket shelves of alcohol-based gels to keep their hands clean but many others are not washing their hands properly, if at all. If my experience is anything to go by, many men are not even washing their hands after having a pee in a pub toilet, unconcerned by having urine on their hands, on their mobile phones and on their beer glasses. What price these same men will wash their hands in order to try and prevent coronavirus?
Coronavirus is potentially far worse than seasonal flu and comparisons are absurd. That thousands around the world are dying of starvation is completely different.
Ignorance, complacency and poverty. The friends of coronavirus. Although we have individual responsibility, the government has the power. If people start dying in large numbers we will know why and, sadly, who to blame. It’s us and them.