Mark Andrews on Saturday: Crisis brings out the best and worst in folk
Talk of a crisis bringing out the best and worst in people.
Showing humanity at its best, a staggering 400,000 people have applied to take part in the NHS volunteering scheme, where members of the public are offering their services to the most vulnerable. This may include picking up medication for people in self isolation, collecting patients who are ready for discharge from hospital, and transporting equipment between sites. The fact that people have come forward in their droves shows that for all our world-weary cynicism, people are inherently good.
And then at the other end of the spectrum, we have the 'coronavirus challenge', where incredibly stupid young people film themselves licking toilet seats, pillars on buses, and car door handles to post on social media. Depressingly, some of these odious stunts have managed to attract a million viewers, confirming P T Barnum's assertion that nobody ever went bust by underestimating the public's taste. Anyway, one of these idiots, an 'influencer' who calls himself Larz, says he is in hospital now, having contracted the virus.
I would be tempted to say it's poetic justice, but of course this bozo is taking up a much-needed medical resources from those who really deserve them. And probably getting more 'likes' or whatever it is he craves.
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Meanwhile, former Daily Telegraph editor Sir Max Hastings has suggested the young people are paying too heavy a price during this epidemic to protect his 'monumentally selfish' older generation.
The 74-year-old says the elderly are becoming a 'dead weight' on the NHS, and we should 'shed fewer tears' for older people who die from coronavirus because they have enjoyed the most prosperous of times.
The trouble with his argument is that when the Government talks about measures to protect the vulnerable and elderly against coronavirus, I suspect it is not talking about strong, healthy millionaire ex-newspaper editors like Max Hastings. It is about the millions of ordinary pensioners who are finding this quite a terrifying experience. It is about the little old lady in sheltered housing unit, the old man who has been forced to sell his home and everything he had to fund his care bills.
It is certainly true that the hundreds of billions pledged by the Chancellor in the space of a few days will take decades to repay, with future generations bearing the brunt.
But what was the alternative? The Donald Trump "it'll all be over by Easter" approach of do-nothing-and-hope-for-the-best?
When the crisis is over, there will come a time when the Government will be held to account for its handling of the situation. If the drastic and hugely expensive actions are proven to have saved lives, then most will accept they were necessary; if the evidence suggests they made little difference, then I suspect the public mood will turn very quickly.
But either way, this is something we must all get through together, young, old or in between. The last thing any of us needs is a self-flagellating baby-boomer sowing more seeds of division into this country.