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Corona Diaries – waiting for the end of the beginning

March 15, 2020
Woolton Pie

Lots of stuff to think about today, starting with a beacon of wisdom and leadership.

Donald Trump has suggested a national day of prayer to head off the coronavirus. If he was Irish, he would say “I’ll pray and pray till me knees are raw”. Perhaps a better approach would be to wash and wash until your hands drop off.

No doubt a little faith goes a long way. At least you feel a bit better afterwards. But a day of prayer? It’s hard to imagine that the righteous would be able to stay on their knees all day without a regular slug of Fox News to sustain them. Perhaps that’s the benefit of staying at home. You can do both at the same time.

A few days ago I suggested that the data from the pandemic would be difficult to analyse because a number of countries would be keeping the extent of their infections under wraps in order to hide their ill-preparedness. It seems I was right. The president of Indonesia has admitted doing just that, though his stated reason was that he didn’t want his people to get too worried. Sadly, another example of a leader treating his citizens like children. Do we have the same situation in Russia, Turkey and India?

When people are dropping like flies, even the most authoritarian government finds it difficult to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes. As in Iran.

But lo! Now it turns out that in my own country, according to the BBC :

“People who are self-isolating with mild symptoms are no longer being tested for the virus. The government said on Friday it estimated the true number of UK cases to be around 5,000 to 10,000.”

Which means that the “confirmed infected” numbers are meaningless. We’ve either run out of testing capability, which is the case in the US and most likely in other countries where the number of cases is suspiciously low, or the rate of infection is so rapid that we can’t catch up and have given up trying.

So actually the death toll is the only meaningful number, and the death rate – the percentage of dead versus those infected – will remain a mystery for all time, as happened in the Spanish flu pandemic. Duh. Now even I, with my limited intellectual capacity, am beginning to understand.

Meanwhile, almost every hour it seems, we are being bombarded with news and speculation. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, tells us via the Daily Telegraph that we’re on a war footing. Good old WW2 rises its head again. Boris Johnson is urging industry to convert its factories to produce, not Spitfires, but respirators. What a shame that we don’t have factories in the UK anymore. Perhaps the government will take up my earlier suggestion that we should buy the kit from China. He could call it a lend-lease agreement.

On the speculation front, some the most alarming conjecture came last night from the very mainstream, non-fake ITV. Robert Peston, the arm-waving harbinger of financial doom in 2008, suggests that soon the NHS will stop treating anyone over 65, and enforce isolation on the over-70s, who will be ordered either to stay indoors go to a care home.

Very interesting. No doubt our eminent human rights lawyers would have something to say about an implied contract between the state and people who contributed mandatory National Insurance payments for their entire working lives. Breach of contract for not providing healthcare?

I have a particular interest in this story. Today is my birthday. I’m over 65, but under 70. So if Peston is correct, I shall still be free to go out and play havoc, but I shan’t be treated if I get sick in the process. Which I guess is better than being forced to go to a care home where the boredom would see me off faster than the virus.

I’m sure the government will have thought about another implication – how the constituents of elderly members of Parliament would feel about their elected representatives being incapable of functioning because they’re forced to stay at home. But of course that would not be an issue if they suspend parliament for six months. Problem solved!

Should we all end up being gated, I’m not in the least concerned about being bored. We have enough books to last us for months, including a number of 900-page tomes I haven’t got around to reading yet, including a birthday present from my beloved, Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, which describes Thomas Cromwell’s stately progress towards the executioner’s block. Now there was a man who knew something about plagues…

On the subject of books, I had a heated discussion with my wife this morning. Our regular delivery of loo paper is now two days late. If it completely fails to arrive, and our back copies of the Times are no longer sufficient for our needs, we’ll need to attack the library. But what books? Lee Child, Kathy Reichs? Or perhaps the moth-eaten history books festering on my shelves?

I fear this argument will continue to run until the crisis is over or I peg out, in which latter case the drains will quickly become blocked by pages of my late father’s biographies of obscure Austro-Hungarian archdukes.

But first I shall propose a compromise – that we should start with all the exotic cookery books we’ve accumulated over the years but never used, saving only the one that contains the recipe for Woolton Pie, the insipid concoction recommended by the British government to the ration-stricken population during World War 2.

I will end this bulletin with a chirpy little story from the front page of the Sunday Times. Apparently ISIS has told its followers not to travel to Europe. In its Al-Naba newsletter, it warns that “the healhy should not enter the land of the epidemic and the afflicted should not exit from it”.

Oh well, that’s one less thing for MI5 to worry about. It can turn its attention to the octogenarian resistance movements brewing in the suburbs.

Hasta la pasta!

From → Books, Social, UK, USA

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