Of course we’re worried about coronavirus, but it’s time to talk money

The Queen got the balance right, says James, but will we? Photo: Buckingham Palace/PA Wire

The Queen got the balance right, says James, but will we? Photo: Buckingham Palace/PA Wire - Credit: PA

James Marston is as worried about coronavirus as the next person, but it isn’t the only threat that keeps him awake at night

The Queen got it right with her address last week. A calming force in a world of confusion, fear and alarm. Just what we needed and, of course, just what we expect from a woman who has never failed in her duty to her country. Her wise words, her reassuring presence in our sitting rooms has done much to assuage my own anxieties over the last few days, and I suspect yours too. We will meet again.

But I cannot help but fear for our future. This lockdown through which we are living and gradually coming to terms with, must come to an end and the sooner the better. While we hear the horror stories on the news and the news continues to feed the pandemic of fear which runs alongside the pandemic of coronavirus itself, I think we need to think a bit more deeply about what is yet to come – economic recession, if not depression.

I’m afraid the young of today – the very people, it seems, least affected by the virus – are going to have to pay for this over years to come. And I think it is time we recognised some of the difficult choices we will soon have to make – lockdown versus global economic depression. Already prices are rising. Already business are failing and people are losing their jobs. Already the outlook for our economy is cause for concern.

And this matters because it affects us all. Unemployment and social deprivation isn’t a thing of the past and poverty blights lives and ends them early. We cannot afford this type of lockdown for too long and while we might be saving the NHS and lives at the moment we have to balance this against the cost to lives – in terms of hardship and health problems – that economic depression will bring. This is no easy choice – which lives should we save? The vulnerable of today or the vulnerable of tomorrow? How do we strike the right balance?

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The point will surely come soon when the trade-off between lockdown, and the associated health problems that it will bring, and economic turmoil and personal financial hardship that will follow, versus the coronavirus death rate, will come into the public debate more loudly as time goes on.

Each premature death is tragic but the fact is that the human condition has 100 percent mortality rate – it is for all of us a matter of when not if. This is difficult for us to accept and even think about and death is a great taboo but I’m afraid there’s no way around it. Not talking about it won’t stop it. And nor does talking about it in these terms mean neither a lack of sympathy nor a dearth of compassion.

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Indeed there are varying views around the scale of this pandemic, the news gives us a skewed view – it. Fear sells and it reports the drama, the tears, the worst cases, the death of children, of NHS workers, the medical testing debate, the prime minister’s health, what it often fails to show us is a balanced view. Television in particular relies on images to go with the words and is only a small step away from theatre, it even starts with dramatic drum rolls and music. But we are used to it, and it does much toward shaping our views – and indeed our fear.

But let’s not forget that most agree that the actual global death rate from coronavirus is very low. And that not all experts agree on the course of action we are taking.

I am worried about the effects of following one scientific model and that our response to this pandemic is focusing too heavily on just one aspect of it. I hope we are sufficiently challenging the thinking behind the decisions that are being made on our behalf, and I would be failing in my duty as a journalist if I simply accepted what we are being told and asked no questions of the prevailing wind.

We have given up much in the present – our civil liberties have been swept away with barely a murmur of protest, we are forced to act contrary to our nature, we are facing, the longer this goes on, an economic future that is, at best, challenging and at worst bleak, with all the problems –health and otherwise – that such a scenario brings.

In the meantime let’s applaud the NHS, let’s thank The Queen, let’s hope the prime minister is soon back in the saddle, let’s do and hope for the best and let’s hope the precepts behind our reaction are being challenged sufficiently. Because if they’re not – we’ll just have to go through it all over again.

What do you think? Are you concerned about the economic fallout from lockdown? Write to James at james.marston@archant.co.uk

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