2020 March

Madness is contagious Catch 22- Joseph Heller

A chronicle of the great coronavirus hysteria

Before I start this chronicle of the great coronavirus hysteria of 2020 the actual quote from Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 is “insanity is contagious”.
But I am sticking with madness which suits the present political time and I don’t think Joseph would mind. His allegory of the deadly bureaucratic lunacy of the second world war is a perfect match for the UK Government’s ‘we are at war’ approach to the 2020 coronavirus

Truth is the first casualty of war. Government action purports to ‘follow the science’. However, as will be seen, ascertaining the science behind the decisions is like hunting the snark. All questioning has gradually been drowned out by the simplistic slogans pushed out relentlessly by Government public information and a poster campaign reminiscent of the propaganda of early Soviet Russia.
This chronicle follows the Times weekday reporting of the coronavirus pandemic from the first day of the first UK lockdown in an attempt to discover the truth in the fog of hysteria and government news management.

The Times has been chosen as a being a best source of reliable and accurate information. Social media can provide information and copies of National Health Services and Office of National Statistics releases, but in an age of fake news, validating such information is time consuming and beyond the resources of this blog. However it should be noted that, like the BBC with its reporting of Brexit, the preconceived opinions of editors and sub editors can be selective in only reporting the news that matches their views and follows a narrative that they consider to be what everybody else should accept as fact.

And of course, all news media loves hysteria. Evidence rarely gets in the way of a front page and a compelling headline. Second opinions are relegated to inside pages and letter columns. But the contradictions are there to be found on close examination.

The intention of this chronicle was to follow the reporting on a day by day basis. But the third lockdown has just been announced and it is nearly a year on from the first, so the journal will now follow the story on a week by week basis.

The UK lockdown commenced on Monday 23 March 2020 and this is week one as far as this blog is concerned, but there was a build up to the Government’s draconian action to suspend civil liberties.

Gathering Storm
Some straws in the wind preceding the UK government’s action

The Times Thursday January 30 2020
Front page strap headline
200 Britons fleeing deadly virus in China
“Ministers were told that a swine flu-style pandemic was a reasonable worst case scenario – the World Health Organisation said that the whole world needs to be on alert”.
Pages 6-7 News Coronavirus
London is most at risk of virus outbreak
“according to an analysis of international air travel”
Page 33
Virus hit markets could drop by 10%

The Times Thursday February 6 2020
Page 17
British Labs go head to head for cure
Hospital isolation pods will help ease pressure on A&E

The Times Monday March 16
Front Page
The prime minister will put manufacturers…on a war footing…to support production of ventilators.
Pages 6-13 News Coronavirus
Page 7
Millions of over 70s will be told to stay at home for four months
Page 9
…the chief scientific adviser said the vast majority of people get a mild illness
Page 10
170 million in Europe living under lockdown
Page 12
Plague ravaged London 1665 – Samuel Pepys quack remedies
Page 29 Leader
Covid is a grave threat but should not inspire panic
Page 35
Airlines appeal for government bailout
Page 36
The £1billion loan scheme to help small businesses cope with the coronavirus crisis may be too small
Page 39
There are 3.1million people employed in Britain’s retail industry…
Page 43
Coronavirus has hit the catering industry hard…
Page 60
Season must be completed insists Dyke

Blue Funk
Panic takes over.

The Times Tuesday March 17 2020
Front page
Britain in lockdown
Mr Johnson dramatically intensified his response to coronavirus after scientists told him a quarter of a million people would have died under his previous plans
Pages 4-13 Coronavirus news
Page 8
We will buy as many ventilators as you can build, PM tells firms
Page 30 – letters
Every time you turn on the news, figures about Covid-19 are thowwn at you which can be frightening, but these figures have to be put into perspective…if you have underlying health problems you should probably self isolate … but to suggest that perfectly health people should be forced into isolation is bordering on panic…
Page 37
Markets still in grip of fever
Page 38
Most global airlines ‘will be bankrupt in ten weeks’
Page 39
Car factories brought to a grinding halt

The Times Thursday March 19 2020
Front page
Exams cancelled … schools to shut down
Boris Johnson ordered the first national shutdown of schools in British history
20,000 troops put on standby
the chief medical officer has said school is not dangerous for children during the pandemic but closing them would slow the rise of infections. He also said it was important that children and adults still took exercise while in social isolation.
London set for isolation
London could be put in lockdown by the weekend
This is not about arresting people on the street
Pages 4-15 News Coronavirus
Page 7
Crisis could cost 25m jobs
Page 8
Makeshift mortuary for London
Page 14
Germany bucks the trend on fatalities
Page 26
We mustn’t allow officialdom to steal everyday liberties
Page 37
FTSE has worst run since 1998
Page 41
Hospitality sector puts up shutters