The provenance of media reports on this virus is just as complex as its provenance of mutation
There has been a leap in the number of Coronavirus infections over the last week (it would be odd if there hadn’t been) but the death rate stays firmly at 2.1%. It is still clear that it transmits from human to human more efficiently than most previous viruses, and is late in producing symptomology. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared it an epidemic (about time). The UK is now quarantining every flight from China, and the total number of British cases is seven.
There really is nothing to see here – yet. But on the basis of this, the Times has a front-page splash promising that w’re going to get ‘a major epidemic’, and that everyone is being too relaxed about it and we can’t have that.
So it is that “world expert” Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has been wheeled out to declare himself “increasingly alarmed” by the “rapid spread” of the virus and the “huge” number of cases emerging daily.
Why? The Whys I mean are, why is he surprised, and why has the Times given him centre stage?
Centre stage is sort of understandable given his ground-breaking work on AIDS and Ebola. But there are other considerations.
Monsieur Piot describes himself as a chap who ‘grew up in Belgium dreaming of exotic adventures and helping the poor’. He is a senior UN bigwig, Left of Centre, and an opponent of Brexit. (It is, of course, only a matter of time before the spread of CorNov19 is down to Brexit chaos, and a lackadaisical attitude by Boris Johnson).
Peter Piot is not what you’d call a shrinking violet: when it comes to publicity, he’s more your polyganum sort of fellow. Search engines reveal hundreds of publicity photos, thousands of media articles about his adventures, and how he discovered
‘a significant heterosexual epidemic of HIV/Aids in 1983’
It was this event – and the shoal of generated publicity surrounding it – that led to a five year scare in the West about HIV spreading generally into the heterosexual population. The UK’s department of Heath at the time commissioned a study to look at the sexual behaviour of bi males. It was based on the Stonewall factoid of the time suggesting a 6% level of bisexual men in the UK. A research recruitment farce then followed, after which the real level was discovered to be 0.4%.
But not before Norman Fowler’s DoH had blown £15million on advertising. You see, agendas cost money.
There’s a bit of a giveaway about Piot’s own political agenda when he launches into this little speech in the Times piece:
“You know how already overburdened the NHS is and if you’ve got a sudden major rise in cases of pneumonia or milder respiratory infections . . . The NHS can hardly cope with the normal situation.”
Peter is a man with a mission. He has written 28 books, the great majority of which are still in print. Always beware those who have books to sell.
The same caveat emptor applies to mad Australians with newspapers to sell. Some of the specific “evidence” offered in the splash is beyond risible.
Example 1: ‘Ministers have ordered an emergency plan amid fears that China will shut down for months, leaving Britain without goods that are manufactured there.’ I mean, how on Earth are we going to survive without solar garden lights, blunt scissors and self-shredding underwear? One detects a scare left over from Brexit in this one.
Example 2: ‘A disturbing report on 138 patients in Wuhan, the centre of the virus, revealed turmoil with some so-called “super-spreaders” wreaking havoc.’. This turns out to be one bloke who has infected ten medical staff single-handed. Er, c’mon guys – one projectile sneezer doth not havoc wreak.
Example 3: This one from PP himself: “if the number of people who get infected is huge, then that will also kill a number of people”. No shit, Pete.
I do grasp that my own view of this virus could turn out to make me eternally infamous in the Michael Fish sense. But I am not saying “relax and have another pina colada”. I am saying always examine the provenance and the cui bono involved in everything you read.
The virus is coming and people will die. But it most emphatically is not the Grim Reaper.
The real threat being blissfully ignored by all except – guess who? – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, is that China has no choice but to shut down its output and face massive falls in demand. The one thing CoroNov19 is going to cut a swathe through is lots of obscenely overvalued stock markets around the world.
And not before time.