top of page

Wake me up when it's over ...

Updated: May 20, 2020

Bojo’s back, and bursting with energy, if a bit breathlessly. And he’s got a plan. Well, sort of. He’ll keep us posted, sometime. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the light at the end of the tunnel is only flickering fitfully. ‘There are decades where nothing happens. And there are weeks where decades happen.’ Given the scale of the current crisis, that line from the revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin does seem to resonate right now. Russia’s present Prime Minister would probably agree, as he’s just followed Boris Johnson’s lead and tested positive for Covid-19. But for nearly everyone else there’s a sense of time refracted, as we live in this peculiar bubble of, er, nothing happening. Of course horror stories abound. The death toll continues to mount, with loved ones bereft even of the chance of a proper farewell. Frontline workers in the NHS and care sectors are living in hell on earth. While the surge in domestic abuse is hideous testimony to the stresses imposed by enforced isolation. And, yes, the economic costs are incalculable. The focus for easing the lockdown is on the so-called R word. Denoting how many others each person might infect. If the figure’s below one, we’re winning, apparently. A bit like reproduction versus population control. Bojo, who’s now fathered five children we know of would be a fail on that model. Though no one would be so churlish as not to wish him and his fiancée every joy at the patter of tiny feet. But, back to business, the government’s content at this stage to go with the old Soviet model and make up most of most people’s wages shortfall for the duration. Leaving the mood of the majority, if polls are anything to go by, well, pretty chilled actually. A YouGov survey found that half of us were happy at the beginning of March. Might feel like centuries ago, but that was when the first coronavirus fatalities emerged. As the ghastly picture began to unfold morale took a nosedive. But since then it’s picked up hugely, with around forty per cent of us now ok again with how things are. Stress levels are also at their lowest since Christmas, and even the fear factor seems to have gone away. Having peaked at thirty-six per cent before the lockdown was imposed, it’s now back at to its pre-crisis level of well under half that. Pioneering psychotherapist Julia Samuel has a theory. ‘On the usual weekly treadmill you spend all week rushing around getting tired, at the weekend you just about recover, and then do it all again. Now we all have time.’ A concern there for ministers fretting about getting people back to work when it’s all over. They started having pow-wows with business and trade union leaders as another YouGov poll found more than a quarter of us don’t want the lockdown eased even if the experts say it’s safe. Seems they’ve already thought of that in Germany, where the government’s planning to give people the legal right to boycott their offices, if they want to. The country’s labour minister puts it simply. ‘We are learning in the pandemic how much work can be done from home.’ If the idea catches on it could be an upside to the torment the world’s currently suffering. Less time wasted on overcrowded trains, and fewer cars clogging up the roads. And, with demand for oil dropping so sharply the producers can’t even give it away, the planet too could benefit as companies turn to more eco-friendly transport and heating solutions. You never know, campaigning teenager Greta Thunberg’s green dreams could come true sooner than even she could have hoped. Already there’s evidence of what a difference could be made. Researchers have estimated more than seventeen hundred British lives have been saved in the past month thanks to lower air pollution. A fraction of those claimed by coronavirus, but a hopeful pointer to the future. Not that the US President’s especially bouncy about longer term implications, particularly those relating to his own second term in the White House. The American economy’s faltering so badly his ratings have taken a knock. Which he thinks is a darn shame, especially as those doggone Chinese guys invented coronavirus deliberately. Unaccountably, his own spy agencies say the theory’s not supported by any evidence, even though Trump claims to have seen it. Then again, he saw the light over pumping ourselves full of disinfectant as well. And, hell, spooks are fake anyway. What is real, however, is the striking series of strides towards finding the only really viable solution to the problem, a vaccine. Oxford University’s Jenner Institute has enough confidence in what it’s developing to test it on thousands of people this month. Faith well justified, according to the New York Times. The paper reports it was tried on monkeys who’d been exposed to high doses of the virus, and a month later they were all still fit and healthy. Good so far, but it’s taken ages for the government to even reach its own target of testing a hundred thousand people a day. Which suggests getting a vaccine to the population at large will take a whole lot longer, even if it does work. But, the Oxford scientists point out, the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is already producing the stuff and aiming at large-scale distribution, particularly in UK. Meaning there’s a glimmer of a possibility that we could get our hands on lots of it this September, much sooner than anyone expected, thanks to hitherto rival organisations cooperating in a way no one envisaged. All this alongside significant progress towards developing a treatment for those who’ve got the disease. Remdesivir, a drug originally designed to fight Ebola, has cut patients’ time in hospital by almost a third. Results of the global trial of more than a thousand patients have surprised many, as previous smaller ones seemed not to work. Fingers crossed for the future, then. It’s standard practice for new treatments to be tried out on other species before humans, but here’s a crumb of consolation for people who think animals have had a raw deal throughout, especially in the wet markets of Wuhan. Just as drug companies are cuddling up as never before, so too is wildlife. In flagrante, in a zoo in Prague. Since visitors stopped poking their noses in, the keepers have spotted elephants massaging the tips of each others trunks. And a pair of polar bears going, ahem, all the way, just like that. Which suggests, in the words of the old song, ‘that’s why a bear can rest at ease with just the bare necessities of life’. Not that humans are quite as daring, even those who throw caution and clothing to the winds. The Times reports that, thanks to the virus, naturist campsites in France are asking guests to cover up strategic body parts. That’s to say mouths and noses. Oh là là, no peeking now. Even though Boris Johnson says we’re past the peak, manner of speaking. But if all this seems a bit jolly, given the scale of the crisis, it’s worth remembering the nation craves a pick-me-up. Step forward, in your own time of course, Captain, now honorary Colonel, Tom Moore. Having set out to raise a grand for the NHS by walking laps of his garden, he’s chalked up well over thirty two million. Oh and by the way he’s also topped the charts, had a high-speed train named after him and had his hundredth birthday marked by an RAF flypast. But ’allo ’allo, what’s so special about Christian Chenay making weekly trips to provide support in a retirement home? Nothing really, except it’s a risky environment, particularly for him. Only two years Tom’s junior, he’s France’s oldest doctor. Courage, mon brave? And the rest.

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter. Click the banner to share on Facebook


bottom of page