The average UK citizen has approximately a 1 in 3,300 chance of dying of Covid-19 this year (assuming there are 20,000 deaths). For cancer, it’s around 1 in 400. Which disease would you prefer the government to concentrate its efforts on?
In his novel 1984, George Orwell’s dystopian society was permanently at war with, it was implied, an enemy invented for the specific purpose of giving the population something to fear. In our dystopian society the dreaded enemy has been Russia, North Korea, terrorism, and now, could it be Covid-19?
We’re all isolated now, but I feel particularly alone. Am I the only person who thinks governments have panicked; that the measures they have introduced are nothing short of insane? Why are they taking away so many people’s livelihoods, destroying so many businesses, and leaving so many lonely people ever more isolated? To save lives, of course, but how many? Estimates suggested overall deaths from ‘the virus’ in the UK could be in the range of 10,000 to 20,000 (though now it’s looking like at least 20,000). We can act to minimise this figure, but no matter what we do, thousands will die. We might, with the current approach, save 5,000 to 10,000 lives. Surely that’s worth doing?
Well, let’s put that into perspective, shall we? According to Cancer Research UK, there are around 165,000 deaths each year from cancer. Around 38% of those are avoidable. That’s 62,700 avoidable deaths. Think what we could do if government were to allocate just a tenth of the absurd sums they’ve set aside to support British business during the lockdown for Covid-19, to cancer. Early diagnosis is critical. Think how much more testing could be done. Think how much progress could be made on research into treatments and cures. And all without any disruption to the economy, individuals or businesses; beyond taxes being a little higher.
And then there’s heart disease (40,000 deaths), and Alzheimer’s & dementia (26,500). There are over 7,000 alcohol related deaths, and 6,000 suicides – surely we could do something about those? [1.] It isn’t unreasonable to think that government could save 50,000-100,000 lives if they addressed these causes with conviction. CBA, apparently. They’ve even refused to legislate to stop food and drink producers loading their products with the sugar, salt, and fat that are making us all so unhealthy, perhaps because they don’t want to upset an industry that is so influential. And yet, one sight of Covid, and at a stroke they’ve put much of the food industry out of business.
Don’t get me wrong; every one of the estimated 20,000 deaths from Covid-19 is a tragedy. But so is every one of the average 600,000 or so deaths in the UK from other causes. A friend of mine once attempted to peel a satsuma while exiting from a multi-storey car park. The satsuma slipped out of his hand. Thanks to his lightning reactions he was able to save the satsuma. But he lost control of the car and totalled it against a concrete wall.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t act to minimise the effects of Covid-19. There are plenty of measures we can implement, short of pressing the self-destruct button, which is what is happening now. We would, of course, be better prepared if successive governments had invested properly in the NHS, rather than running it down and opening it up to be preyed upon by the private sector.
We’re spending the kind of money economists didn’t know it was possible to raise, and which will leave the country in hock for a generation. We’re destroying our economy. Many people have already found themselves unexpectedly out of work, with millions more wondering whether they’ll have a job to go back to once all this is over. Businesses are going to the wall at a rate never before seen. Oh, and the entire population has been put under virtual house arrest for an indefinite period. And when it’s all finally over, how long till the next strain of virulent respiratory disease mutates, meaning it all starts up again?
In poorer countries, the ensuing global recession will have even more devastating consequences, including increased famine, poverty, disease (in addition to Covid-19), disruption to already poor education provision, and knocking back advances in equality for women.
It doesn’t meet Mr Spock’s famous logic test – the needs of the many outweigh those of the few. The lives of millions in the UK (the many) are being devastated in order to save perhaps 5,000 to 10,000 lives (the few). And all the while government inaction over cancer, heart disease, etc, is squandering many tens of thousands of lives.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we’re all going to die one day. That’s the cycle of life. I don’t have the meaning of life for you, but if I had to give it my best guess I’d say it’s live well, and be ready to look death in the face when it’s your time.
Our biggest enemy is not Covid-19 (unless, of course, we’re being lied to about the potential death toll). It’s fear, and the virulent pandemic of lunacy that’s infected governments across the world.
Text & image © Graham Wright 2020