• Mark Gamon

Coronavirus: of Curves and Vaccines

Sharing this in a spirit of debate and co-operation…

Every time you clear your throat, you wonder if the Beast from the Far East has got you. Every time you look at the news or the social media you’re overwhelmed by the speed of people’s opinions, and the difficulty of deciding what to do.

This is hard. And I’m no virologist. Very few of us are. I’ve been to two music events in the last week and both of them felt a little like the last days of the Weimar Republic. It’s going to be a long and depressing spring. And a lot of people are going to die.

Can’t get away from that. What matters is who, and when. As we drove away from Royston last night, the pubs were still crowded with young people at closing time. Young people have the least to fear, as we currently understand it. But they know and live with older people, and there are a lot of boomers out there.

Boris Johnson dreamed of being Churchillian, and oh boy did he get the opportunity. How do we measure his response?

I’m no virologist. Please advise if you are. He’s being bombarded with criticism for not acting too fast, but his arguments for a managed delaying strategy look (on Powerpoint at least) to be persuasive. If you can achieve a delay, you flatten the curve and avoid overwhelming the Health Service. If you can achieve a delay, you may buy some time for developing treatments - and god willing a vaccine.

But he appears reluctant to take decisive action to lock down public events. We fear that he’s been advised to let the infection run its course - on a managed timescale - so that we develop this herd immunity none of us had ever heard of a week ago. Albeit at the same time as we attempt to protect the vulnerable by telling them to stay at home.

One thing’s for sure: the same number of people are going to die of Covid-19 whatever strategy we follow.

That’s horrible, but we must also fear the collateral damage. We can see it everywhere we look. The airline industry is creaking. The events industry is in meltdown. The NHS will be under the cosh, and probably already is. Pension funds will shrink, people will stop buying things, supermarkets will struggle to keep their shelves stocked. And god knows what you do if you happen to operate a cruise liner.

Perfect storm.

That, I think, is what Johnson is afraid of. He’s supposed to govern, and a collapsing capitalist economy is politically ungovernable.

For sure there are people out there making a profit from all this. Anyone unnecessarily hiking their prices deserves to be put in the stocks and left there. But most everybody else is going to suffer. Especially the poor.

I can’t believe Johnson wants this, even as Cummings whispers eugenic theories in his ear. Right now he’d rather get on with rabble rousing his Brexit base, or making pointless speeches at City of London dinners, or helping Carrie through her pregnancy.

Not this. Just look at his face. He’s haggard. He’s reading the briefing documents, and the reality of great responsibility just slapped him in the face.

I’m no virologist. I don’t know if we’re following the right course of action in this country. Peak curve, flat curve: the same number of people are going to die.

And that will remain true until the one glimmer of hope becomes a reality. We need a vaccine, and we need it fast. Dozens of companies around the world are already working on it, and all we can do is pray they’re sharing the science.

I doubt it. Whenever a journalist asks how soon we can expect a vaccine, we get the same vague response. Testing has to run its course, treatments must be developed first, the vaccine will follow within a year or 18 months.

I pray they’re sharing, but I’m pretty certain they’re competing. Big Pharma has been waiting for the next big money spinner to come along, and all those companies will do their utmost to keep it in house.

If this was a war, governments would mobilise. They’d bring the finest pharmaceutical minds together and give them all the resources they needed to test and develop and ramp up manufacture. They’d share across borders, and find a way to do it fast, giving any company that took part an equal percentage of the eventual proceeds, with a clear plan to get the new drugs to the most vulnerable first.

And one day, in the far distant future, they’d write books and films about the heroes that broke the Covid-19 Enigma code.

But that’s just me hoping against hope. Leaving aside the most hysterical conspiracy theories, I blame no-one for this. But as the storm builds and the dust eventually settles, it might be wise for all of us to consider whether we intend to carry on exactly as before.