It looks as if the advice from the Government about this extraordinary global danger to public health is: “We don’t have to close anything down like other countries, we’ll get through it because we’re British.”
Scientists across the world have warned the best way to stop the virus spreading is to prevent contact between groups of people.
But that’s because they’ve forgotten we had an Empire. And this bug knows there’s no point in trying to make us cough because we used to rule India and won the World Cup in 1966.
In his speech, you could feel Boris Johnson was itching to say: “Pull yourselves together everyone, we got through the Blitz.”
And we did get through the Blitz, by going to great lengths to protect ourselves. We blacked out cities and built underground tunnels and ran to safety when the sirens went off.
When we heard German planes buzzing, we didn’t dance in the street shining torches, shouting: “Doodlebugs won’t hurt me if they land on my head, because I wash my hands and sing Happy Birthday.”
The Chinese have slowed down its spread by closing affected areas for a few weeks. And every other country in Europe is agreed this sort of measure is the most effective – but that’s because these places don’t have our British spirit.
Would Nelson have cancelled a cruise because of a virus? Would William Shakespeare have called off the opening night of Hamlet because an actor was gasping for breath after testing positive? Would Phil the Power Taylor cancel a best-of-five legs darts match because of a few germs? Of course not.
So it’s fitting that our Prime Minister, making his speech to the nation, clearly thought he was Winston Churchill. His next speech will start: “People of Britain, once again, just like in 1940, we stand alone in Europe.
“Where other nations have shut down schools at the merest tickly cough, we have stood firm. Of course the French are surrendering to the virus, they’ll probably invite it to run their government by Monday.
“But I have instructed the RAF to seek out the bug and fire at with all their might. So I must level with you, the British people. I have nothing to offer you but blood, sweat and tears, and insist you all go to as many crowded horse race meetings as possible, and by God we will prevail.”
It seems to be the virus’s good luck that many people will go along with Johnson, because it is here at a time when many of us distrust ‘“experts”.
So there are people who hear a scientist say it’s essential to keep human contact to a minimum, and they’ll reply: “I’m not taking any notice of that idiot, just because she’s got a Nobel Prize for work on stopping viruses.
“I’m off to take part in a mass naked sumo-wrestling competition, because I’m not being told what to do by some health and safety boffin.”
God help us all.
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