No we are not, no matter how many forecasts of doom are being thrown at us. As I am still house sitting in the Cotswolds, it is incumbent on me to buy my own groceries. This morning I took a ride through the lanes and visited the huge Tesco store in Cirencester. It was an education into the ridiculous venality of human beings in the twenty-first century. Yes, I know the weekend is coming up and everyone has been advised to stay at home, but the store was packed with shoppers despite the early hour and out of interest, I trailed behind one young woman who was loading up a large trolley.
Every time she passed a shelf containing tins, she swept the majority of them into her trolley. It didn’t seem to matter what they contained – meat, fish, fruit or vegetables. Yes, she could have been feeding a very, very large family or she could have been shopping for a dozen or so elderly neighbours, but the determined look on her face made me doubtful that she was doing anything but stocking up at the expense of others to prepare for a lengthy siege.
Other people were also filling trollies with frantic haste and I think I was probably the only person in the store who was carrying just a basket. In the midst of this shopping madness, I can only wonder what it is that I’m missing because I simply don’t understand it, I’m afraid.
Like most people I followed with interest what happened recently when a cruise liner docked off the coast of California. Let’s face it, these liners cram thousands of people in together and provide the perfect environment for the dreaded virus to have its deadly way. I fully expected to see hundreds of body-bags being removed for careful disposal, a long way away from crowds of terrified onlookers. But not a bit of it; as far as I know, while many passengers were infected, only two people – both over eighty – died. If this is what happens on a cruise-ship I reckon most of us have a pretty god chance of surviving.
Normal statistics should place this hysteria in perspective, but it looks as though few people are paying any attention. The University of Hamburg reports that worldwide, in the first two months of this year, there were two thousand, three hundred and sixty deaths from the Coronabug and sixty-nine thousand, six hundred and two from the common cold. The Centre for Disease Control reports that twenty-two thousand Americans have died from seasonal flu, which kills between three hundred thousand and six hundred and fifty thousand people around the world every year.
From what I have read over the past weeks the coronabug is relatively easy to treat and the risks of death are very low unless a person has ‘underlying health issues.’ So am I irresponsible in not panicking about the bug? Am I totally insensitive and putting my head in the sand over this veritable apocalypse that is enveloping the world? Perhaps I am but I don’t trust politicians and don’t really accept many of the gloomy pronouncements we hear from the powerful, unelected bureaucrats who run money making quangos like the World Health Organisation.
Let’s face it, not long ago we were warned by these same people that AIDS was going to wipe out most of the African population and decimate the heterosexual community of the world; then there was Mad Cow disease, Zika, Ebola and SARS which had everyone racing for facemasks. We received apocalyptic warnings about all Now we have Covid-19 or whatever they want to call it, with similarly dubious credentials when it comes to its ability to spread and its lethality. Somehow this one has received far more publicity and caused far more panic than the others which have preceded it. However, the crass stupidity of the masses is surely a factor. When Corona beer takes a dramatic drop in sales because people believe it carries the virus, then you just know there are a lot of idiots out there, who believe anything, no matter how preposterous. This hysterical idiocy is manna from heaven to the media who love to preach gloom and doom no matter what.
For me the situation was put in context by a letter printed in the Telegraph last week. This came from a retired doctor from Shipton Moyne here in darkest Gloucestershire. Dr Birdwood qualified in 1953 and with apologies to him, I am quoting his letter verbatim.
He wrote, ‘I have been reflecting on how we would have reacted to a coronavirus epidemic in those days. The answer is not at all, for three main reasons. The Covid-19 virus could not have been identified rapidly enough, if at all. Most cases would have been too mild to attract attention in this season of coughs and sneezes and the small proportion of deaths among elderly people with chronic respiratory disease would have remained much as usual for the time of year.
It follows that there would have been no alarm or counter-measures. International trade and travel would have carried on as usual. World stock markets would not have collapsed. And governments would not have needed to get involved.
As it is today, we know too much about the coronavirus for our own good, but almost nothing about treating its victims or preventing its spread. Sometimes a little knowledge really can be a dangerous thing.
I’m not advocating complacency, but I do worry what we’re seeing right now is well-intentioned over-reaction.’
If I do go down with the coronabug, it might well kill me, but I am damned if I am going to work myself into a panic worrying about it. Surely it is time for a bit of general common sense – or is that too much to ask in the twenty-first century?