According to data presented by Deutsche Bank this week, it looks as though the coronavirus is going to go down as the third biggest cause of death globally in 2020, behind cardiovascular diseases and cancers.
Given that the coronavirus is a completely new entry into the charts, it’s not altogether surprising that the world has gone haywire trying to figure out the best response to it.
But not everyone’s convinced that the responses that have been presented have been the right ones, as the Daily Mail highlighted vividly this week with a couple of front page splashes that were very much at odds with the official government line, and the broad media consensus that has existed up till now.
The Mail cited a report by Edinburgh University on Thursday that highlighted that lockdown measures might end up killing more people than they save, while on Wednesday it highlighted an online petition that has been signed by over 9,000 scientists and doctors who argue that lockdowns are causing more harm than good.
On Friday, the Mail’s headline returned to a more panicky, and potentially pro-government line that the coronavirus is getting out of control, but this was mitigated by editorials against lockdown and a story headlined “Rishi drives us deeper into debt.”
So, is middle England wavering?
There has been talk for a few weeks now about a swathe of Tory rebels who are prepared to vote against the government on its handling of the coronavirus, not on grounds of incompetency, but on the grounds that the conservatives are trampling on peoples’ liberty.
After all, Boris Johnson’s claim that he’s a “freedom-loving conservative” rings a bit thin when children aren’t even allowed to sing together, and people are banned from worshipping their own Gods as they see fit.
This level of state control and micromanaging of peoples’ lives have only really ever been seen in Soviet Russia, and died in the wool conservatives are aghast that it’s their party, and not the party of Jeremy Corbyn, that has ended up enabling millions of new petty despots across the country.
The deeper issue, of course, is one of priorities.
Or to put it another way – narrative.
So, the coronavirus has overnight become the world’s third biggest killer. That’s a public healthcare crisis, right? Well, the real answer is: it depends which way you look at it.
Because the causes of death that coronavirus jumped in front of when it took third place on the list of the world’s biggest killers are respiratory diseases and lower respiratory infections. Given that the coronavirus is a respiratory disease, and depending precisely on how the data is presented, it’s almost certain that a respiratory cause of death of some kind will hold on to the third spot. In that sense, then, nothing’s changed.
What’s more, coronavirus at this point in time is nowhere near to overhauling cancers and cardiovascular issues and taking over the number one and number two spot. Which begs the obvious question: why has the world not put economic growth on hold and raised billions and possibly even trillions of dollars to combat these causes of death? Could it just be that we’ve grown used to having them around?
These are just questions, but what they pertain to are narrative rather than science. The science says people are dying of coronavirus, yes, and also that on average those people that are dying, at least in the UK, are over 80 years old. If we could ask those who died younger of other causes whether they would have preferred more life, allowing that coronavirus would get them in the end, what would these people say?
Would the billions of dollars raised on the bond markets this year to combat coronavirus not have been better served if put towards cancer or cardiovascular research? These are imponderables that are only debatable in narrative form. Science has no answer to them.
Which is why some scientists are against lockdown and some are in favour. Nothing is ever simple any more. Not even death.
Suicide has gone up by a third because of lockdown, and in the US there has been a measurable increase in domestic violence and child abuse.