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Corona Diaries – The Walking Immuno-Compromised

March 7, 2020

OK, so where do we go from here? Speaking of myself, nowhere. I’m ten days on from returning to the UK from a country that has seen a Covid-19 outbreak. Nothing on the scale of Iran or Italy. Not even as big as the UK on current numbers. The island where we spent a couple of weeks had no cases. But then we had to negotiate airports on the way home. Plenty of hand-washing – and disinfecting our personal space on the aircraft – hopefully did the trick.

Thus far, no symptoms. We haven’t self-isolated, because no official advice has required us to do so, but we’ve continued to be careful. Within four days we will move from being notionally a potential threat to others to the outside world being a threat to us.

For reasons that are none of your business, I would consider myself to be mildly immuno-compromised. So according to current guidance I need to be extra careful. But I am only one of a huge number of people in this country who are at risk if and when the virus really takes a grip. How many people have heart problems, Type-2 diabetes, respiratory problems? I can think of a dozen or more without even trying.

I’m not in my 70s or 80s, I live an active life and I haven’t lost my marbles yet. I would therefore hope that I will not be first in the queue for death’s door. But I do consider myself to be part of a clan: the walking immuno-compromised, to be known here onward as the WICs.

And speaking on behalf of that clan, I have to say that I don’t buy into the crap perpetuated by the “keep calm and carry on” brigade, especially when they reel off the flu death statistics and claim that Covid-19 is just like a nasty dose of flu. For some, maybe, but for others, including people like me who haven’t been to the bookies for decades, it’s a matter of odds.

If the virus infects 60% of the population, and it kills, say, 3% of those it infects, then we will lose 1.2 million people, mostly the elderly and WICs.

Now I can see the advantages both for the dead and those who survive them.

The dead won’t have to live with the consequences of Brexit, won’t see our cricketers lose the Ashes once again, nor our footballers crash and burn in Qatar in a couple of year’s time. They won’t need to witness another Eurovision Song Contest. They won’t have to look on Boris Johnson’s fat, smirking face gurning at them in the newspapers. If they’re lucky, they might live long enough to see Donald Trump blow up like an enormous stink bomb in November.

Those who live in care homes will be spared the trauma of having to move to another “home” because staff costs in the Priti-Points era have made the current place unsustainable. They won’t live to see the Archers privatised, nor will they have to put up with a daily diet of reality TV featuring people 60 years younger than themselves.

For those who survive, I can see many advantages. A million less old-age pensions for the state to pay out. The National Health Service relieved of the burden of having to care for society’s weakest members. And since the virus doesn’t distinguish between the rich and the poor, think of the inheritances that will cascade forth upon the survivors, not to mention the boom in death duties, as well as the properties liberated from the iron grip of the baby boomers and the stamp duty bonanza resulting from their sale by grasping descendants.

Yeah, it’s sad about grandad, but he had a good life and his time had come. Now the funeral’s over, let’s get on with the tax cuts, eh Boris? With all that extra money, time to build some motorways, HS 2, 3 and 4, and get that bloody bridge across the Irish Sea sorted.

When the survivors look back, it will seem as if God organised a euthanasia programme, since He knew that we were too wet and sentimental to do it for ourselves.

Will it come to this? Your guess is as good as mine. But the signs aren’t good. The most ominous portent from the last couple of days is the news that two BA baggage handlers at Heathrow have come down with the virus. This implies that they caught it from bags they handled, which in turn implies that either the passengers or the handlers at the originating airport were infected. Try tracking that lot.

We seem to be fast approaching the point at which we need to make some decisions. To be fair to the government, I think they realise this.

Do we put life on hold for the next six months for everyone in the country to give the WICs a chance? Or do we let God get on with His euthanasia programme?

If the former, it will mean embargoed communities, no Glastonbury, no Cup Finals, no quiet dinner parties and no scrums on the Tube. In other words, Wuhan awaits.

If the latter, it will be sauve qui peut. Crowds mobbing the supermarkets as they panic buy and infect each other. Paranoia, attacks on minorities perceived as being super-spreaders (already happening), economic collapse (not far away) and general anxiety sufficient to move even the most phlegmatic of our citizens (getting close).

Speaking as a paid-up member of the WIC, I think that any society that is prepared to abandon the weak and the elderly to their fate isn’t worth belonging to. I would say that, wouldn’t I? But to do so does set a dangerous precedent, since the young will be old one day, and this pandemic is surely not the last we shall face within the next couple of generations.

So I don’t think it’s too much to ask to put normal life on hold for the next few months. This is the government’s Delay strategy. Try and phase the rate of infection so that the NHS isn’t overwhelmed all at once. The longer we avoid reaching the peak, the closer we come to the point at which we have a viable vaccine.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from a pandemic, it’s that we’re not an island. We simply can’t close our borders, close our eyes and hope for the best. Because by the time we get around to doing that, it’s too late. The damage is done.

Whether we like it or not – and lots of people in this country don’t like it – we’re not independent and never will be. We’re interdependent. Right now, we depend on the efforts of other countries to limit their exposure to Covid-19. We depend on other countries to share information and research that will result (hopefully) in a vaccine. And if our economy is reduced to a smoking ruin, we will depend on international institutions to keep us afloat.

Perhaps, even in our frenzy of national selfishness, we might find it within ourselves to assist other countries less able to cope with their health emergencies.

I will not bang on further about Brexit and the false god of independence. And besides, we have other more pressing things to worry about. At least I’m pleased to announce that we have a shipment of loo paper, ordered online, coming our way. Should it be diverted by rioting dysentery sufferers, we have a large number of back issues of The Times which will do nicely. I always knew that the print version was preferable to the online edition, though I hadn’t anticipated this potential benefit.

We’re all dealing with our fears for the immediate future in our own way. Some of us are in denial, which is certainly a comforting strategy. My way is to put my thoughts in writing, hence this post. I don’t think we’re approaching the end times, but I do believe that we should keep our eyes open, be realistic and recognise all the crap that’s circulating about this crisis for what it is.

That’s it for now on the corona front. More when I have it.

From → Business, Social, Sport, Travel, UK

  1. Nice one, Steve!

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