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Nigel Hastilow: This is serious – but it’s not the end of the world

By Nigel Hastilow | Nigel Hastilow | Published:

Eight years ago I contracted such a severe flu I spent a week in hospital isolation, treated by medics in masks, and thought I might die.

Even toilet breaks are controlled – Strensham services near Worcester

In fact, at one point I felt so wretched, I wouldn’t have minded dying as it would have put an end to my misery.

They never did discover for sure what it was though, for a while, as they quizzed me about my (very unadventurous) sex life, they obviously thought it was AIDS-related.

A nurse said it might be swine flu. Whatever the strain of flu, which I’m convinced I caught on the London Underground, it was made worse because I do not have a spleen.

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That was removed in an emergency operation when I was 10 and I wrapped myself round a tree while sledging.

At the time, the doctors said the spleen was a useless organ and its absence would do me no harm. It turns out it helps maintain the immune system and without it, I’m more vulnerable to infections.

This all became apparent when I was in hospital and, since then, I get an annual flu jab, an anti-pneumonia vaccine and I take one antibiotic pill every day.

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So if I get the coronavirus, I think it will probably kill me. Which is why I’m keeping my distance from the world.

Even so, the reaction to the spread of this Chinese flu (Donald Trump is well within his rights to point out where it comes from) seems to me to be excessive in the extreme.

It’s the end of the world as we know it. Everything has stopped. Our supposedly-libertarian Government has put the entire country under house arrest, closing every pub, bar, cinema and restaurant and turning Britain into a police state.

Anguish

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It has taken over almost the entire economy, like good Marxists seizing control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Soon it will be rationing food and loo-paper as it is already rationing medicine and medical treatment.

This has never happened before in this country. The State is stamping on the faces of the people in exactly the manner George Orwell predicted in ‘1984’.

Of course Boris Johnson and his expert advisers tell us it’s for our own good. They also point to the fact that every other country is imposing similarly Draconian measures to control the spread of this deadly virus.

But is all this justified? Are the horrific predictions of up to half a million Coronavirus deaths in this country alone in any way accurate?

Is a ‘worst-case scenario’ really the basis on which to destroy British civilisation? We have known worse. We have lived through worse. Three years ago, flu carried off 50,000 people in one winter. Nobody batted an eyelid.

Every day in this country, 1,600 people die. At the moment, many people are dying of Coronavirus and the number is growing fast; three years ago, about 200 people a day were dying of flu.

Most, though not all, would have died anyway because of an ‘underlying’ condition. Any old flu could kill me, it doesn’t have to be the one transmitted from animals in Wuhan’s monstrous marketplace.

Yes, more people will die of the virus. And the stories of their anguish will be heart-rending. Yes, the NHS is struggling to cope despite the Government throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it.

Yes, doctors and nurses are heroes who deserve our gratitude.

But I’m still not convinced the virus warrants the complete destruction of our economy, the long-term interruption in the education and careers of millions of young people or the closure of every attraction in the country from football grounds to National Trust parkland.

Truth

We’re all going to die. It’s a truth we prefer not to think about. This plague has brought home to us the fragility of life and of our way of life.

Terrified of getting it wrong and having thousands of deaths on his hands, Boris Johnson has succumbed to the gloom-mongers and pessimists.

In his shoes, who wouldn’t? Nobody wants to be responsible for half a million deaths. We have to knuckle down and meekly accept this destruction of society because it’s for our own good.

Yet I can’t help worrying this is over the top. We can’t trust the statistics – for instance, we have no idea how many people have caught the virus because most people aren’t being tested.

I know four people personally who may well have the virus but, as none has been tested and they don’t need hospital treatment, we will probably never know.

The virus is serious. If I get it, I expect I’ll die a horrible death. I don’t want that to happen and I will exercise caution for as long as necessary.

But the wholesale destruction of our entire way of life, our economy, our relationships with family and friends, in fact just about everything we hold dear, is the highest possible price to pay.

I have a nasty suspicion we will discover that Armageddon is postponed and the destruction of the Britain we know and love was a calamitous mistake.

I hope I’m right but, in the meantime, I’m not taking any chances.

Nigel Hastilow

By Nigel Hastilow

Express & Star columnist

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