‘Imagine if Covid-19 had hit in 2000 instead of 2020’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press

Covid-19 testing site
A Covid-19 testing site in California
(Image credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

1. The pandemic has been awful. It could have been so much worse

Megan McArdle in The Washington Post

on the timing of the pandemic

“I won’t call this a miracle,” says Megan McArdle in The Washington Post. But it is “a piece of fantastic luck” for each of us to have been born when it was possible to combat the coronavirus pandemic with a vaccination programme. “Imagine what might have happened if Covid-19 had hit in 2000 instead of 2020,” she writes. We might well have had to make do with less effective vaccines, or wait for natural herd immunity, and “we wouldn’t have had the online shopping and entertainment options that made isolation semi-tolerable”. If the outbreak had happened “even a short time ago, more of us would have gotten sick, more of us would have lost loved ones, and, quite possibly, more of us would have lost businesses and jobs”. She concludes: “We live in an unprecedented age of wonder - and that’s the only reason some of us are still here to appreciate wonders to come.”

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2. 28 years after my brother’s murder, the UK is a better place - but still in denial about racism

Stuart Lawrence for the i

on removing racism

The progress made in the 28 years since Stephen Lawrence was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack is “welcome”, writes his brother Stuart in an article on the i news site. “Yet when it comes to removing racism from our society, we’re a long way off from declaring ‘mission accomplished’.” Racism and prejudice continue, he warns, and now is not the time for “complacency and patting ourselves on the back”. Nevertheless, Lawrence is “filled with optimism” by the younger generation, who he hopes will be inspired by his brother’s legacy to make “positive change”. Young people are “engaged, aware of the challenges facing society and determined to make the world a better place”, he concludes.

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3. Deadly Delay

The Times editorial board

on tackling air pollution

“For all nine years of her short life, Ella Kissi-Debrah, who died of an acute asthma attack in 2013, lived in a home 25 metres from London’s busy South Circular Road,” says The Times editorial board. Her mother’s long campaign to prove that poor air quality contributed to her death was vindicated by coroner Philip Barlow, who has now urged ministers to set tougher limits on air pollution. If new legislation on clean air is not included in next month’s Queen’s Speech, ministers “will bear responsibility” for the loss of further lives that might have been saved, says the newspaper.

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4. Boris Johnson is not the man to clean up British public life

Robert Shrimsley in the Financial Times

on Tory sleaze

“In the quest for a leader to restore standards in British public life, Boris Johnson would not be anyone’s first choice,” says Robert Shrimsley in the Financial Times. “The prime minister radiates contempt for rules and conventions. It is not that he does not see the need for them, it is simply that he has made a career out of proving they do not apply to him.” Shrimsley argues that while Johnson recognises the political need to “head off a new narrative of Tory sleaze”, triggered by David Cameron’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Greensill Capital, the PM is more likely to “cauterise the wound” than seek meaningful change. “Some crises bring forth a leader,” says Shrimsley, but “in the insouciance of Johnson and Cameron, the leaders brought forth the crisis”.

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5. As trade minister, I don’t want to return to Australia empty-handed

Dan Tehan for The Telegraph

on a new trade deal

Dan Tehan, Australia’s minister for trade, recalls in The Telegraph how his predecessor Doug Anthony flew to London 50 years ago in what would prove to be a doomed “attempt to maintain some of the special trading relationship Australia enjoyed with the UK”. The British government “had turned its attention to the Common European market and Australia felt a special bond was being broken”, writes Tehan, who is in the UK this week to meet International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to discuss a post-Brexit Australia-UK free trade agreement. My country now “stands ready again to be a willing partner”, he continues. “We want to help you achieve your goal of a Global Britain.” That won’t be easy in a world dealing with a major pandemic, warns Tehan, who urges the UK to join Australia in “showing a commitment to free and open trade that creates jobs and opportunities for business”. He concludes: “I don’t want to return home empty-handed. Fifty years on, let’s get this deal done.”

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