It’s not all bad news

Even a deadly pandemic has its positives

7 March 2020

9:00 AM

7 March 2020

9:00 AM

The first piece of advice is to view coronavirus as a blessing. ‘If only there could be something to unite all humans against a common enemy — like a meteorite heading towards earth,’ said my wise older friend Anne some years ago, ‘then all wars would stop.’ I always thought she had a point. Now corona-virus is that common enemy.

And don’t forget we won’t necessarily die — only 2 per cent of us, mainly oldies, will. Meanwhile, with the plausible prospect of life as we knew it grinding to a halt, we will reassess the amazingly luxurious long and healthy lives (compared to any other time in history) that all of us have been enjoying over recent decades and be grateful for, instead of begrudging of, the tyranny of choices we have had about which holiday to go on and how to stop ourselves drinking and eating too much and how to stop swiping and instead settle for one partner.

Business will grind to a halt for those hook-up apps which effectively promote barnyard sex, and this can only be good for human dignity. Carbon emissions will fall as we take fewer planes. Fear will drive us, if not back to church, at least to consider our moral positions. Pangolins have a chance of not becoming extinct. These are among the blessings coronavirus could bestow.

However, in the short term we mustn’t come across as Old Testament prophets declaring the end is nigh and we all deserve to be exterminated on the cities of the plain anyway. When the emergency is over, it will be remembered who was kind and who was not, and who shunned old infected friends as though they were lepers.

The best attitude is to assume we are all going to get it anyway, even if we do hide in our houses and avoid the Tube and crowded gatherings. What about the things that come through the post and on the hands of the people driving the delivery vans and on the hands of the members of our family who go out to work and still have to go on planes? What about our household staff? We still need them to come in from the outside world and they will most likely be bearing germs. Masks don’t work. And what about our dogs, licking us after they have licked other dogs whose masters may be infected? Think of all those sneezed-on cakes and loaves of bread that currently sit on open display on food counters. Prepare for bed.

And now we have a chance for romance to make a comeback. Dating apps featuring meetings with possibly infected strangers will have to take a new approach, inviting punters to have the dates by Skype and FaceTime until the emergency is over. The young have anyway been gripped by the US series Love is Blind on Netflix in which people who want to find a partner get to know each other just by talking in adjacent pods, like confessional booths, with no visuals, to see if they will fall in love on personality only.

We must strengthen our immune systems with power naps and early nights in preparation for getting our doses — otherwise carry on as normal. Government is going to have to carry on. So are the royals and the stars of stage and screens. Alphas in general must show leadership. We must still give and attend parties, concerts, christenings, weddings and school events and ban the subject of corona at the table (as we learned too late about Brexit).

Obviously, you now hug, fist-bump or foot-tap rather than kissing as a social greeting. It’s time for gloves to make a comeback. Pull a cashmere scarf around your mouth while travelling on the tube. Stick to your own mobile and don’t hand it round to show photos. Don’t use anyone else’s landline. Follow HM the Queen’s lead and don’t go to the loo outside your own premises. The signal is not that you are cringing in the company of potentially infected others, but that you are courteously giving others nothing to be worried about in potentially infected you.

Channel the Blitz spirit and enjoy. There will, once again, be blue skies over… eventually.

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