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Coronavirus: should we keep calm and carry on? | Letters | World news


Simon Jenkins gives a list of “scares” that have not reached the predicted body count (Let them wash your hands, but not your brain, Journal, 7 March). He does not discuss HIV/Aids and the 1918 flu epidemic, which had devastating consequences. All the medical experts he speaks to are “calm”. Yet the World Health Organization is demanding immediate dramatic action. It cites the actual experience of China moving from 40 cases on 1 January to 3,000 a day in February. Its government was only able to limit this spread by the imposition of a quite astonishing level of social control, including closing all schools and universities, the strict quarantining of whole populations and the use of mass surveillance to track those infected. As the WHO says, this is not a drill and the “carry on as normal” approach is inviting catastrophe.
Prof Greg Philo
Glasgow University

Re Simon Jenkins’ article, both awareness and balance are possible. Every day, newspapers and websites are filled with pictures of people wearing unnecessary face masks on our city streets (The essential guide: What do we know? How should we react?, 7 March). If even some of these images were replaced by pictures of people washing their hands, as the World Health Organization recommends, the message about hand hygiene might reach more people around the world. This message is both simple and life-saving, and it bears infinite repeating.
Prof Brendan Kelly
Trinity College Dublin

Isn’t it time the government dug out some second world war posters? “Coughs and sneezes spread diseases, trap your germs in your handkerchief.” And we could cheer ourselves up with the wartime phrase “for the duration”. The poster applicable to fight climate emergency, “Is your journey really necessary?”, could also be revived.
Penelope Putz
Exeter

Your experts advise that in the event of emergency time off to look after a self-isolated child “most people would … just work from home” (Coronavirus: Holidays, pensions events, jobs: what it means for you, Money, 7 March). Really? Cleaners, bus drivers, factory workers, retail staff, nurses, care home staff, fire and rescue service staff, police? I could go on.
Adam Rennie
Edinburgh

I wonder if Albert Camus found inspiration for his novel La Peste (Doom-laden plague novels fly off shelves, 6 March) in the documented story of Eyam, the Derbyshire village whose inhabitants chose isolation and certain death during the Great Plague of 1665-66? Its moving history was the subject of a play by Don Taylor, The Roses of Eyam, that I first heard on Radio 4 some years ago. My own adjective for such narratives is Wyndhamesque.
Nigel Linford
Eastbourne, East Sussex

If the government now self-isolates in the new phase of coronavirus, will it fall to Dominic Cummings to arrange the masque for their entertainment, or perhaps more appropriately, should he only appear at the end?
Ben Ashford
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

It is just as well that Britain’s reservoirs are all full at the moment, given the extra water that will be used as millions of households follow the government’s advice to carry out repeated hand-washing rituals. As the water companies are so flush, perhaps they could be persuaded to grant customers a modest rebate off the next metered bill. How about it, Wessex Water (and others)?
Hilary Veale
Weymouth, Dorset

Guardian readers seeking a more appropriate tune to hum while washing their hands (Letters, 6 March) could do worse than to sing the first verse and chorus of Billy Bragg’s version of the Internationale. Doing so allows ample time both for a thorough cleansing and to reflect on the congruence between the sentiments of the song, reminding us of our common humanity regardless of national borders, and the actions of the coronavirus, which equally shows such artificial boundaries complete disrespect.
Martin Pennington
Leicester

In our household we wash our hands to The Red Flag.
Charles Fearnley
Farnham, Surrey

The Guardian can publish as many articles as it likes about coronavirus (pages 1, 2, 6-15, 40-43, main section, and pages 1, 2, 3, 5, Journal, 7 March), but I’m afraid that the general population will not take it seriously until it is mentioned in The Archers and somebody has to self-isolate or worse. By the way, is it safe to use Italian lemons in my marmalade?
Richard Keal
Houghton on the Hill, Leicestershire

The people who are panic-buying toilet roll (Report, 5 March) and hand sanitisers (Report, 7 March) have got it all wrong. They should be buying pizzas. Then they can keep safe when feeding family members who are self-isolating simply by sliding their food under the door.
Philip Collier
Bolton

We really will be up shit creek if a consequence of a toilet paper shortage is a parallel outbreak of norovirus facilitated by millions of suboptimally wiped bottoms.
Stephen Benyunes
London

I am stockpiling the Guardian just in case.
Mike Lowcock
Sandbach, Cheshire

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