PIERS MORGAN: We must invoke a wartime mentality to combat coronavirus

PIERS MORGAN: Coronavirus has declared war on the world – so we must all stop our selfish whining and remember that you can’t fight – and win – wars without making some sacrifices

This is war.

Make no mistake, for my generation, the COVID-19 coronavirus is the biggest threat to civilian life that we will have experienced since World War 2.

The disease has smashed its way out of China, where it started, and begun to wreak deadly havoc all over the globe.

And it represents a particularly dangerous enemy because we still don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with, or how bad things are going to get.

But what we DO know from what has been happening in China, South Korea, Iran and now Italy is that it has the potential to be utterly devastating.

And unlike a traditional foe, this is not something we can ‘defy’ with conventional weapons.

It’s a virus, so if you come into contact with it, then it doesn’t matter how big or tough you are, you will get infected.

In fact, it’s estimated that 80 percent of the entire planet may end up being infected by this coronavirus.

Coronavirus patients lie face-down on their hospital beds as they are treated by medical staff in protective suits in Cremona, northern Italy. Research has suggested that lying face-down may improve survival chances in intensive care 

Most, especially the very young and healthy, should emerge relatively unscathed.

But for older people, and those with underlying health issues, COVID-19 is a very serious virus.

For a whole country as big as Italy to be completely locked down is unprecedented, yet the statistics that led to it explain why the Italian government has taken such dramatic steps.

More than 10,000 Italians have tested positive for the virus, of whom 631 have died.

This represents a mortality rate of over six percent, which is six times higher than normal flu.

And the rate of infection, and deaths, in Italy has been terrifyingly fast.

Just two weeks ago, it had just a few dozen cases.

Now, all 60 million people in Italy are in quarantine, cut off from the rest of the world.

As one leading Italian scientist said last night: ‘It’s like a massive bomb suddenly exploded.’

A patient is loaded into an ambulance Tuesday at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington. The nursing home is at the center of the outbreak of the coronavirus in Washington state

Experts now fear that bomb is heading to many other places, including the US and the UK, which are both on virtually identical infection rate trajectories as Italy.

The governments of both countries have so far resisted doing much more than tell people to wash their hands (this is good advice) and slash interest rates to prop up collapsing economies.

President Trump and Prime Minister Boris Johnson seem determined to hang on as long as possible before taking the kind of draconian action Italy has taken, for reasons that frankly bemuse and concern me.

What more do they need to see happen before they realize the scale of this threat and the vital need to get ahead of it?

It seems insane to me that huge events like the Cheltenham racing festival in Britain have been allowed to go ahead today, meaning 250,000 people will be rubbing up against each other in very close proximity.

How does this make any sense when in Italy, all live sport has been cancelled for a month?

In the States, only now are presidential candidates starting to cancel rallies, but many other large gatherings of the public, including huge sports events, are still happening.

To which I ask: why?

The number of cases and deaths from coronavirus across Europe is seen above in this map

We know from countries like China, albeit very late in their case, and Taiwan (which has had very few cases so far) that the key to reducing the impact of COVID-19 is to ‘flatten the curve’ by postponing the number of cases as long as possible to ensure victims can get the right treatment. The lower the strain on health services, the lower the mortality rate.

The best way to do this is social distancing, keeping infected people away from those who are infected.

Yet at the moment, we’re still gathering in vast numbers for non-essential reasons.

I love sport as much as anyone, but my football team Arsenal has had its Premier League match against Manchester City tonight postponed because the owner of Greek side Olympiakos, who we played 12 days ago, has tested positive for COVID-19.

So why is Cheltenham going ahead given there is an almost certain chance that infected people will be among the crowds?

And why is the British Parliament still in session today given that one of its members has tested positive for coronavirus?

There is no consistency to the coronavirus defence by either government.

It’s like they are sticking their heads in the sand and hoping to dodge a bullet.

But America and Britain won’t dodge a bullet.

The deaths and cases in the U.S. from the deadly disease is shown above

Both countries have rapidly expanding infection rates, and we know for an absolute cast iron certainty these rates will now massively accelerate very quickly.

So, the cold hard truth is that the coronavirus genie is out of the bottle now and no amount of money can stop it.

And I dread to think what’s going to happen when the US and UK health services suddenly come under the kind of intense pressure currently being seen in Italy, which has a very good health care system but is now crippling at the seams.

I just hope and pray those charged with protecting our health and safety know what they’re doing and making the right decisions.

But there’s one thing we can ALL do and that’s get a collective grip, stop over-reacting and UNDER-reacting – which can even more irresponsible – and adopt a wartime mentality.

That means making sacrifices.

In many ways, we’re the most self-absorbed generation ever to walk the earth despite, or perhaps because, most statistics on things like health, war, poverty, social mobility indicate there’s never been a healthier, safer, more prosperous time to be alive.

This has bred a complacency that is now about to be sorely tested.

To put it bluntly, we’re all going to have stop being so bloody selfish.

I’ve been disgusted to see so many younger people on social media saying things like ‘Stop scare-mongering! It only kills the elderly and sick!’ as if somehow we don’t need to care for the most vulnerable people in our society because we’re alright, Jack.

It’s not about us, the younger (I’m 54, so only just about qualify for this category in coronavirus terms) people who should be OK.

It’s about the very people being so casually and callously dismissed – the elderly and sick.

If Italy’s infection and mortality rates spread to the US and UK, then hundreds of thousands, possibly, god forbid, millions, of people in those groups are going to die.

The virus, as it did in China and Italy, is now spreading exponentially through both countries, mostly silently with many carriers not knowing they’re infected.

There seems little doubt our COVID-19 bombs are about to explode.

So, let’s stop the ‘stop scare-mongering’ bullsh*t.

There are very real reasons to feel extremely concerned about this.

But let’s not panic either.

What is needed now, just as it was in WW2, is calm heads, common-sense behavior and stoicism.

I can understand why people feel the need to stock up on basic essentials, given many of us will inevitably have to self-isolate.

Passengers wearing respiratory masks are seen in Turin in Italy where the whole country has now been locked down

But it is stunningly stupid, and grotesquely selfish, to see so many people still buying up masks in stores, despite being told they make no difference to the risk of infection, and despite being told it may deprive the health workers who need them most from having them.

Just as it is repulsive to hear so many moaning about possibly having to forego their trips to the football, cinema, ski slopes or favorite restaurant for a few weeks or months.

Are your elderly loved ones not worth skipping a movie?

No, we’re all going to have to make sacrifices for a bit.

If that means postponing holidays, missing some sport, or drinking at home rather than the pub, then so be it.

What the hell do you think our grandparents had to do during the war?

Did they moan and sulk, and throw their pampered little toys out of the pram?

No, they stiffened their lips, cracked on, and put the national interest above their own personal comfort.

I can’t believe we’re still even debating whether to still hold major international sporting events this summer like the European Football Championships and Olympics.

There’s no chance of coronavirus blowing out before then, and it’s hard to imagine anything dumber than inviting people from COVID-19 ravaged countries all over the world to all come together to watch athletes jump over bars or kick a ball.

So, postpone them now and give everyone time to make other plans.

The bottom line is this: life’s going to get rough for a bit, as rough as most of us have known, and a lot of people are going to get seriously ill or die.

But if we come together, act sensibly, put the health of others before our own selfish pursuit of pleasure, and show some gritty resolve, then we will come through it.

It won’t be easy, but it’s the right thing to do.

It’s time for the kind of Bulldog spirit personified by Winston Churchill.

‘If you’re going through hell, keep going,’ he urged as the Nazis blitzed allied forces.

But it’s another of his quotes that seems more pertinent now: ‘Things are not always right because they are hard, but if they are right one must not mind if they are also hard.’

So, stop your bloody whining and do the right thing.


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