There is only one news item now: coronavirus. Nothing else matters.
And it looks set to stay that way for months.
Yet I’m still not sure how bad it’s likely to be. Must we always expect the worst? Must we always prepare for the very worst imaginable outcome?
This applies not just to pandemics, but to everything else as well. The global warming scare is one which has the likes of Greta Thunberg believing that “the world is on fire.” And of course the supposed threat of secondhand tobacco smoke has been used to exile smokers to the outdoors, and to destroy a convivial culture. Many of us now expect the worst everywhere, and are frightened of everything. Theirs is an existential terror, of impending doom, coming from almost anywhere.
A few days ago I came across a headline:
NASA Warns Two Asteroids Could Cause Atmospheric Explosion Over Earth This Week
Closer examination revealed that:
CNEOS states 2020 EF is expected to fly past the Earth from a distance of 0.04241 astronomical units or approximately 4 million miles. Meanwhile, 2020 DP4 will approach Earth from a much closer distance which according to CNEOS, is only 0.00901 astronomical units or around 840,000 miles.
Since the Moon is about 240,000 miles from the Earth, both of these bodies will be a lot further away than the Moon, and so there’s no possibility whatsoever that either will explode in the Earth’s atmosphere. To suggest it is to engage in pure scaremongering. But how many people know that the Moon orbits the Earth at a distance of 240,000 miles, and are terrified at the thought of any rock getting anywhere near the Earth?
The scaremongers are winning in the case of coronavirus. The entire economies of countries are being closed down in response to an ill-defined pandemic threat. It will bring about mass unemployment and a deep economic slump. Is it really necessary to do this?
Peter Hitchens has the same question:
And so here I am, asking bluntly – is the closedown of the country the right answer to the coronavirus?
He goes on to ask:
How long before we need passes to go out in the streets, as in any other banana republic? As for the grotesque, bullying powers to be created on Monday, I can only tell you that you will hate them like poison by the time they are imposed on you.
When it’s all over, and we know how many the coronavirus will have actually carried off, will we still think that this shutdown was necessary? May it not seem that we overstated the threat of the virus, and simultaneously underestimated the threat of an economic shutdown?
At what point do we tell all the scaremongers to be begone, and never darken our doors again? Who is going to tell us, like FDR, that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself?
I suppose these must be some of the powers about which Hitchens warns:
Police, public health and immigration officers will be able to detain people suspected of having Covid-19 and exact £1,000 fines for refusing tests under emergency powers rolled out by the UK government.
The guidance detailed in the coronavirus bill allows public health officers to order someone believed to be infected to undergo screening and testing within 14 days. They will be required to provide biological samples and disclose their travel history.
Alongside the police, they will also have the power to force potentially infected people to isolate, restrict their travel and activities and contact with other people.
Immigration officers and police will also be handed powers to send people for screening and testing and hold them for a period of time before a public health officer can be consulted.
These “public health officers” will be the zealots in Public Health England, who spend their days demonising tobacco and alcohol and fast food and sugar and salt.