The Coronavirus Act

HRH Prince Charles has tested positive for COVID-19 which was certainly not the coronation he’d been anticipating. He is now self-isolating – and separately from his wife who has tested negative. In marital terms, he’s slid in on his knees towards the corner flag with his shirt over his head. That’ll be 2 weeks off work, playing FIFA 20 in his underpants and ingesting copious amounts of Exmoor Beast and Cadburys Dairy Milk. Off you pop, Jeeves.

Yet mind-bendingly – or perhaps not so, given recent form – there’s been subsequent criticism of authorities that the princely one had been able to avail himself of testing facilities. Well, he is the future head of state and over 70. It would also be crucial to ascertain any risk to the Queen, our 94-year-old head of state. The fact that this is in question at all reflects just how far we’ve sloshed down the post-fact log flume.

In any event, the argument about test availability is lamely masquerading as a question of equality. It’s bandwagoning pure and simple. Get a test and prove that you’re infected, and you will become someone. You’ll get your 15 minutes of fame, access to services, and kudos. You will acquire a platform and even better, it will take you to a place from which you can crawl back. You may even document it in a shaky mobile phone video to post online with a message to everybody to stay safe. Because you have appropriated the responsibility for others and to bear that message.

You too can be a virus prophet.

It’s a free pass to effortless heroism.

Meanwhile, everybody else in the UK has interpreted the PM’s order to stay in as a direct plea to venture out. The number of dog walkers, joggers and cyclists has soared upwards astronomically. And now that the Coronavirus Act has received Royal Assent, we’re going to see a similar turbo-charge applied to the inbound call volumes of police call centres. It’s going to be the green flashing light for grassing. They’ll probably have to set up a separate Slimestoppers line.

They could stop everybody going out by forcibly shaving one eyebrow off every transgressor. With this bonkers government, you can’t rule it out.

When I mention the Act, I am of course referring to the law that’s been passed, not the whole act that society has undertaken in order to self-actualise and feel a sense of self-worth on the back of this virus nonsense. I’m surprised that Twitter and Facebook haven’t crashed under the superfluous weight of ‘Support Our NHS’ posts. People with sense and compassion do that all year round, every year. We just don’t need to talk about it – or rather need to be seen by others to be talking about it.

But back to vigilante surveillance. We’re going to be seeing a lot of sneaky grassing over the coming weeks and months as normative restraints on petty revenge by the slighted and vexed are unhinged by the rule of law.

And unhinged will be the operative term. If you thought that the Brexit side-taking led to an inexorable divide, the corona-shambles will be significantly worse. In the scheme of things, the willingness to ease oneself into self-righteousness buttressed by perceived statutory muscle will surely surpass the lure of wet liberal elitism.

And its stealth will soup-up its potency. A second layer of discomfort, or a second wave of infection, and all its insidious unpredictability. We’re all edging towards being on permanent edge.

There are however some bright lights, but even these have the inevitable potential to go on the turn. NHS volunteering has now seen over 500,000 people put themselves forward to help the support for the vulnerable. The mobilisation is finally in place, but in the UK this support wave took time, whereas the Chinese got it right off the bat. Which I suppose was true regarding the bug itself. But I digress.

It’s admirable stuff but the certificate of participation that will doubtless be provided (and fervently sought) in the aftermath will morph into a what-did-you-do-in-the-war-daddy cudgel to beat up non-volunteers for years to come. Given the psycho-shaming strategies of the me-me-me brigade that pervades every nook and cranny of 21st Century UK, we’ll doubtless also see more kudos afforded to those with a lower volunteer number. And the last time that garnered so much societal distinction was for membership of the Nazi Party in the 1930s.

But here’s the clincher, and it knocks all the pretence and drama of this whole corona freak show into a (condom-covered) cocked hat.

In order to combat the number of deaths reported, the Government has bowled a playful googly by tweaking the criteria for definition of ‘deaths’: they now report these only when familial consent has been obtained.

And yesterday’s mortality total represents the smallest rise in the number of demises since 17 March – more than a week ago.

They’re little rascals, aren’t they? Presumably, the requirement for isolation means that the number or requests for consent will also be falling. Ho hum.

So, they’re now faking the only part of this crisis that was ever real – the deaths.

While the Act comes into force today, that’s only a law that structures what can and must be done for crisis management. The real act continues to play out on all fronts.

The damage that will do will remain with us for generations.

unsplash-logoFatih Kılıç

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