I’ll be honest and say that I actually missed Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, enlightening us on the importance of being ill.
I spend half my time trying to understand how the Dutch ministry for health manages to convince us that the pandemic is showing signs of stabilising whilst, at the same time, publishing figures that indicate a steady increase in the numbers of infected people and reported deaths. I won’t argue with them because I’m useless at arithmetic, and even worse at statistics.
The other half of my day, I spend in very close proximity to a thermometer. Not one of those flashy ones that can tell you your body temperature to an accuracy of three decimal points, but a good old-fashioned mercury thermometer. I read somewhere that mercury was friendly to the environment. I know that I certainly am. Bolsonaro may not take the pandemic seriously, but I certainly do. At the first sign of a flush, there I am walking around the house with a thermometer in my mouth, preparing for isolation. I got really worried the other day when the temperature inside my mouth was 45ºC. I didn’t realise that it was better to wait a few minutes after drinking a cappuccino, followed by a latte macchiato.
Jair Bolsonaro has hit the nail on the head. This coronavirus business is nothing but a plot. He doesn’t believe a word of what everyone else is saying, and would rather spend his time clearing a few shrubs from his back garden, the Amazon.
The Brazilian president does have a point. It’s not for nothing that China has just sent hundreds of thousands of useless facemasks to the Netherlands. Meanwhile, back in France, president Macron is relieved he doesn’t have to worry about reforming the state pension anymore. In his first stint in office, Macron has managed to modernise the French economy, and rejuvenate the population, whose average age will have dropped 10 years by the time the pandemic is over.
Even Boris Johnson is in on the act. Who would wear a tie when staying at home with a temperature? My 15-year-old never gets out of his pyjamas when he’s at home, at the best of times. Had I seen an unshaven, sick-looking man, strolling around the bedroom in nothing but a tee-shirt and boxer shorts, I may have believed him.
The situation in the UK is nothing but a plot. How can it be otherwise, when social distancing measures include reducing the number of Underground trains so that you can pack twice as many commuters into half the number of trains? Crowded trains are a hunting ground for pickpockets. But in these times where there are more virus particles floating in the air, than oxygen molecules, you are more likely to get your FFP2 mask nicked than your iPhone.
The shortage of masks – in France, at any rate – may be solved as president Macron has just realized that if France can send satellites into orbit, France can surely manufacture a few billion face masks in a couple of weeks.
Making face masks is not as complicated as making respirators. The Netherlands forgot to order theirs to Dutch firm Philips, and by the time they did, the aforementioned Philips had run out of stock, having just sold the last remaining machines to China.
But it’s not all bad news. Despite dying like flies, the little old ladies in our nursing homes are taking the crisis with a sense of defiance, as only little old ladies can. Mrs Peters, 89, has seen it all before. Sitting behind her double glazing that has been closed for weeks, she doesn’t even notice the stench because loss of smell is one of the clinical symptoms of COVID19. She waves lovingly to her grandson who is standing in the car park, a mile away from the home. “My childhood was taken away by a war, I won’t let my old age be destroyed by a virus,” she shouts through the window. Gone are the days were she could meet up with her family, and eat in the communal dining room of the nursing home with her best friend, Mrs Jones, who has just turned 93. “Virus,” Mrs Jones smiles. “What virus? I haven’t seen it.”
Back in Paris, renting a dog to quarantined customers, giving them a valid reason to go out, is a lucrative business. But if you do decide to hire such a considerate beast, I suggest you do it after five, because you are more likely to obtain a discount, the dog having already been walked.
Cynical and frivolous? Moi? Not on your nelly. I’m just as scared as the average 83-year-old. It’s just that, unlike the Brazilian plonker mentioned above, I don’t believe a word our leaders utter, and I certainly don’t believe they have the situation under control. Our leaders are all protected by the sterile surface of the cathode tube, in the comfort of their office, and have the nerve to tell us – the people – what to do. But, contrary to Bolsonaro, I do believe that I can fall seriously ill – not by giving a handshake to a complete stranger, but by the lack of preparation of, and foresight coming from, those who are supposed to lead us.
I’m not asking for much, though. I just don’t want a plonker, but a leader, to protect public health. Unfortunately, in this day and age, we have rather more of one, and not enough of the other.