“Calm and authoritative.” That was a tweet from Cabinet Office Secretary Michael Gove just after the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, gave an interview to the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday morning.
It was, without doubt, an assured performance by a Secretary of State who is working tirelessly with other ministers to bring the impossible jigsaw of health, social, business and, well, life stuff, together as “the” Coronavirus finds its way to our shores.
But he won’t be able to do it. Coronavirus is here and there is always going to be a missing piece to the jigsaw.
Nonetheless, today the Prime Minister also issued a calm and authoritative statement. While everyone else is running around like their hair is on fire, it is probably, just as the PM has done, best to take a step back and think – just for a minute.
While urgent action is needed, it’s also worth keeping in mind those old, misrepresented dependables – hesitance and deliberation.
At the time of writing, as many as 1% of people who contract coronavirus could die, the government’s chief medical officer has said.
That’s less than ideal.
But it’s not a crisis, the world isn’t going to end and it isn’t a reason for panic. Preparations for this kind of stuff are already in place. Scare stories will proliferate and political opponents of all persuasions will, of course, still seek to gain advantage.
Plus ça change, I guess. But today this kind of issue gets unduly inflated by the cesspit that is Twitter and blown out of proportion by morons on Facebook and more cold-blooded and calculated destabilisers on other social media platforms.
It has also been inflated by the (admittedly absolutely brilliant) work of the tabloids. Britain’s superb tabloids are woefully underrated. They’re top of the tree – but they don’t give a monkey’s. Perhaps on this occasion, though, they should and show a bit more restraint.
In the meantime, markets will tank, short sellers will profit, employee absence levels will soar, companies will buckle, entrepreneurs will be extinguished and normal folk will find themselves out of work.
It’s important stuff and so I hope that the health insurance and protection industry doesn’t cheapen itself by trying to capitalise on people’s fears – that would just fan the flames.
So far, it seems that the major insurers and employee benefits consultancies have been approaching the whole issue with a cool head.
It wasn’t always so. The bad old days of “one in three of us will get cancer” (yes but that’s not relevant because that’s the whole population, not the insurable one) seem to have gone.
The mental health mafia have been throwing figures around with gay and hearty abandon though. “One in four” people will experience a mental health issue this year – that seems to be the commonly agreed figure.
Not just that though. It’s apparently “official” (?!) that one in six people experience a common mental health problem such as anxiety and depression in any given week
Duh. Well, most folk get pretty hacked off if one of their loved ones die or they rack up impossible debts or they can’t stop sniffing glue or they wake up every morning to a warm half-drunk can of superstrong white cider and a bucket full of puke or a partner who beats their dog.
It’s called grief. Or stupidity. Or addiction. Or life.
But in recent years, insurers have, on the whole, resisted the temptation to sensationalise statistics in a coarse way to boost sales.
Some are using random mental health “statistics” a little bit too readily and to them I would urge caution. But on the whole, the insurance industry isn’t doing what the majority of the public thinks it always does: playing on people’s fears.
The industry dropped the ball on HIV/AIDS – or the “gay plague” as it was known, shamefully.
Now we have Coronavirus – some idiot will probably start calling it a she-devil like “Corona Virus” or, even more repulsively, “Chinavirus”, soon – and the insurance sector can redeem itself and do something pretty straightforward:
Be calm, be authoritative – and be there.