Do you believe in all the information put out by the media? I doubt it, but we don’t have the time or the specialised expertise to distinguish the true from the false. Few of us have specialised expertise but, for we fortunate few, mainly the inquisitive retired, we have time to question the ‘facts’ as promoted in the media. If I see any report quoting percentages, warning lights flash up in my mind. A few days ago the Daily Telegraph stated, quite correctly, that the incidence of coronavirus had ‘leapt’ by 300% (trebled) — to 89 cases. 300% is so much more impressive a figure than 89 or an increase of 30 people.
The World Health Organisation considered declaring the outbreak as a pandemic so Flybe, a major British airline, goes into liquidation; Virgin Atlantic bookings drop like a stone and Sir Richard Branson takes a 20% cut in his salary: Italy bans all flights from Iran and the Far East as well as closing most schools in the country: California declares a state of emergency after a cruise passenger died and pharmacy shelves are empty of hand-sanitizer products. Last week there were 80,000 people sick with coronavirus of which 77,000 were in China. 81% of these infections were mild, 14% were moderate while 5% were critical but panic has gripped the world. We are lemmings rushing to the edge of the cliff.
Wait a minute! The Spanish flu pandemic killed more than 50 million (that’s 50,000,000) people after the First World War — more than the number of all the war casualties. Today (20th April 2020) the global count of coronavirus infections were calculated to be 2,423,498 of whom 166,041have died, 635,875 have recovered while there are still 1,621,582 active cases.
In the meantime, the World Health Organisation estimated that there were more than 10 million cases of tuberculosis active in the world in 2017. This is four times the number of coronavirus cases reported today. Tuberculosis has been around for years and forms part of people’s lives in many parts of the world. It is known — whereas Covid-19 is, at present, unknown and that is much more frightening because our imagination comes into play and it is fuelled by the media who need dramatic headlines.
When was the last time you saw figures for road casualties in the UK? Each death was a tragedy for a family but they are rarely reported in spite of the fact that there were 160,378 road accidents in 2018 which resulted in 1,782 deaths compared to the 120,067 coronavirus cases of whom, so far 16,060 have died — but there is never going to be a vaccine against road deaths. So the WHO, Department of Health, Secretary of State for Transport, those responsible for the infrastructure of the country cannot be held to account and therefore not worthy of media attention.
Having said all that, I do not envy Governments in their attempts to control the infection and the public’s reaction to it. They must be seen to be doing something. They must ‘React’ but, if they are to get anywhere near the front pages of the newspapers, they must ‘over-react’ to make the story worth publishing.
Government spokespersons, health officials, activists of every description — and probably Gwyneth Paltrow — are issuing statements by the soundbite. The true fact is that we don’t know enough about the infective organism and yet ill-informed people feel the need to express their opinions loud and clear. I hold no brief our elected representatives but I do believe that they are being subjected to exaggerated acrimonious flak from an attention-seeking media.
Take two headlines from today — “Government’s incompetence loses 180,000 PPE gowns” and “100,000 PPE gowns due to arrive last week from Turkey never arrived.” Actually the Government ordered 200,000 PPE gowns from China only to find that the order that arrived at Heathrow contained 20,000 gowns and 180,000 masks while the delay of the Turkish gowns was the result of the Turkish authorities refusing permission for the cargo aircraft to take off.
We live in a very frightened world at the moment. We have random terrorist attacks, shooting sprees, gang warfare killing teenagers, lethal drugs available as easily as a Chinese takeaway and rapes in every town in the land. This list does not begin to include the wars currently being fought in Iran, Syria, Sudan, Ukraine, Turkey, Somalia and Libya.
Please. Try taking a step back and think for yourselves. Enjoy the sunshine, listen to the riotous birdsong, look closer at the emerging blossom and know that the run will rise again tomorrow.
As you may have noticed this article was first drafted in April 2020 and we are about to enter November, 6 months later, and that draft can only be described as an article of historical interest.
What has changed in the intervening period? Since that time we have had second and third Covid surges, younger people are succumbing to the virus adding to the continuing rise in deaths in the elderly and vulnerable; different governments have taken wildly varying responses to the pandemic; more people are falling victim to cancers that were not diagnosed early enough to allow room for the influx of Covid cases and the mental health of the general population is deteriorating significantly. Added to this is the increasing evidence of “Covid fatigue” where individuals are breaking the rules of mask-wearing and social distancing because they have simply had enough.
Anger, frustration and loneliness are adding to the fear that is increasing across the world. Isolated from previously normal social interaction, people are more vulnerable to contact by hackers and con artists who rob them of their savings. One of the more bizarre unexpected consequences of the Covid crisis is the early slaughter of Christmas turkeys before they get too big to feed a table limited to seat six people. Edinburgh Woollen Mills is calling in the administrators because their fleet of delivery trucks are quarantined in Wales. Belief in the news media, already at a low ebb (fake news), has sunk to even lower levels when government promises and assurances are repeatedly broken. More and more people are gathering their information from social media where misinformation, conspiracy theories and disputed scientific information is rife.
With all this, even before the arrival of winter in the Northern hemisphere, is it any wonder that the world is frightened — and frightened people often act dangerously out of character which makes me fearful for the immediate future.