I promised myself I wasn’t going to write about the coronavirus – it’s bloody everywhere, literally, at the moment – but since my enjoyment of watching a repeat of Pointless was delayed on Thursday by Our Glorious Leader
making a grand announcement asking two science experts to answer all the questions asked at a press conference on the very subject (remember when everyone was bored of experts? Not so bored now, are they?) I figured I may aswell chuck my two-penneth (soon to be post-Brexit currency) in the hat.
The past week has seen panic buying on a truly epic scale. Given the advice was to make sure you wash your hands for as long it takes to sing two verses of Happy Birthday (nobody has told me which Happy Birthday though: Stevie Wonder’s? Altered Images’?The Bluebells’….?), I wasn’t terribly suprised to visit my local ASDA the other day and find that there was not one bar of soap, bottle of liquid soap, or tube of anti-bacterial handwash out on the shelves, not even those crappy one-use travel size ones.
But this week has seen the sort of panic buying of toilet roll that makes you wonder if the coronavirus is sponsored by Andrex; I half expect to see a cute Labrador puppy wearing a face mask cough it’s way onto my TV screen at any moment.
Did I miss the announcement about the virus also causing stomach complaints? No, of course not; this is people preparing to “self-isolate”, a task I’ve been readying myself for for the majority of my adult life.
And that’s not all: a visit to the food aisles shows a similar problem – anything long life and non-perishable is being snaffled up by lunatics in advance of the end of days.
There’s a supermarket just around the corner from me, I go there every day to get my lunch. (A pasta salad and an apple juice, in case you’re interested). I always go to the self-service tills because, much as I object to their very existence, they serve the same purpose as the old “10 items or less” tills (which, I’m sure I’m not the only pedant who, whenever I saw one, would mutter “It’s fewer, not less” under my breath).
These particular tills are at right angles to the queue to use them, so the worst one to end up on is the first till, where everyone waiting is watching you and, if I’m honest, judging at the same time. And when I say ‘judging’, I don’t mean just what you’re buying (“Awww, look. He likes Jammie Dodgers, blesss him”), but your self-service till skills. I have lost count of the amount of times I have found myself screaming in my head “WHY AREN’T YOU PACKING AS YOU’RE GOING????”
The other day, I got to the front of the queue, with my two items, and watched the lady at the first till as she scanned nine packets of spaghetti (which explains why I had to settle for lunguini – fatter, less value for money – the other day), ten tins of tinned fish, and fourteen tins of baked beans, amongst a whole load of other multiple items.
Actually, if that’s what she plans to live off, the toilet roll panic is probably justified. “What’s for tea, Mum?” “Same as last night: fishy baked beans and pasta.”
(AND SHE DIDN’T PACK AS SHE WENT!!!)
And the thing about panic buying in this scenario is that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. If you buy all of the soap and hand sanitiser, then that means that all of the people you’re going to come into contact with won’t have it, thus increasing your chances of getting it. Also: any afficionado of post-apocalyptic drama will know that after the first outbreak, the next people who die are the ones who have stockpiled, for they will be attacked by those who didn’t. I mean, have these people never seen The Walking Dead?
You know where I’m going for the first tune of the day, right?
(Hang the PM, Hang the PM, Hang the PM….)
Anyway, Boris seems to have remembered that being Prime Minister actually means that he has to do prime minister stuff, and so he decided to make a couple of appearances this week; firstly to ask everyone to stop panic buying, which worked, obviously, and then there was the televised live press conference, where he generally deferred to the two science experts either side of him.
I’m genuinely suprised he didn’t make them wear white lab coats to underline: these men know what they’re talking about.
And here’s what the Government plan was: we’re not going to do anything, because this is going to worse before it gets better, and if we implement changes now, everybody will be bored by the time the virus hits its peak and we have to ask them to do more.
So, there would be no travel bans, no bans of large meetings (although as I’m writing this, I see the Government’s position on this has changed), such as the Cheltenham Festival, no nothing.
In much the same way as the stock-piling British public showed absolutely no faith in Boris’ intended-to-be-calming words a few days earlier, the entire football heirarchy met and – in direct contravention to all that Boris and his boffins had announced the night before – decided to suspend all games until April 4th, at least. Personally – and sorry to any Liverpool fans – I’m hoping the whole season is declared null and void in the hope that might mean Mourinho is no longer Tottenham’s manager, but I’m clutching at straws there.
Oh, and by the way, if, like me, you pay extra to your TV provider to be able to watch Premier League, Champions League, Europa League or any football which they would normally broadcast, then you’ll be delighted to hear that both Sky and BT Sport have no plans to reimburse us for the cost of the football we pay them to no longer be able to watch. Bless ’em.
Anyway, Boris’ advice was this: we need to “take it on the chin”, that “things will get worse before they get better”, and that the virus needed to spread through the country so that we could develop immunity to it, although he accepted that meant that “a great many people” would die as a result (I couldn’t find the actual quote, so I’ve paraphrased that one).
This is all worth mentioning because the Government’s actions are almost directly opposite to those being taken by pretty much every other nation, who are almost entirely in lockdown now. Even America, who only days ago had Trump declaring the virus was “fake news” – he’s nothing if not predictable – yesterday declared a national emergency (or, as Trump described it, “two big words”, like he was particularly proud of having known them, like a child who has just managed to use their potty properly for the first time and done two big boy brown ones).
This, in essence, is Boris’ tactic for dealing with the virus:
Fair play, I never had him down as a Mudhoney fan.
(And I will kill you for a square of Cushelle.)