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Coronavirus selfishness: What lurks beneath the UK’s patina of civility?5 min read

As Britain enters another week of coronavirus lockdown, Ted Jeffery provides us with his take on the current situation, establishing whether or not Brits are as selfish as parts of the media make them out to be.

Surely we aren’t a nation that’s lost its way? The Blitz spirit hasn’t died out, has it? We Brits are definitely not the type of people who rugby-tackle grannies for the last tin of tomato soup. Are we? As much as I’d like to say no to all three, I worry that the coronavirus has unveiled those in our society who are riddled with selfishness.

In lockdown life, I’m barricaded in my bedroom, which I’ll have you know is no bigger than Harry Potter’s cupboard beneath the stairs. I’ve started to find myself down an online coronavirus rabbit hole.

I was astonished to read about overpaid political commentators such as Rod Liddle, who have behaved in an appalling manner whilst doing their weekly shop. He openly admitted to depriving an old lady in Tesco from acquiring the last of the pasta sauce and toilet roll. Then murmured a smart remark before scuttling off.

A shameful and unnecessary act

Firstly, Liddle is hardly the type of man who knows how to make a decent spaghetti vongole. Secondly, is The Times not paying him enough to do an online shop instead?

Photo: eldar nurkovic / Shutterstock

This whole panic-buying and toilet roll hoarding malarky has only worsened the situation. I spent five hours last week trying to get a loaf of bread. How do I make my Ted Toasties without medium white Hovis? Answer that, Boris.

To be fair, my problems are hardly at the epicentre of this crisis. The real people who miss out on bread, eggs, milk and tinned goods are those who have spent their days saving lives. The great British bastion, our front line of defence against this deadly virus. Our wonderful NHS staff are being left with nothing to return to.

The prime minister, who has just been discharged, said the only way the UK would beat this virus is by “coming together”. It seems as though, despite a few Philistines, the message has started to chime in the hearts and minds of many Britons.

The beautiful sight of hundreds of people standing outside their homes and applauding the NHS has hopefully shown the world how much we value our key workers and a state-funded healthcare system.

It’s time we open our eyes

Government figures show that 2 million people have now tested positive for the virus. The number who have died with the virus in the UK reached 10,612. Among those fatalities was 21-year-old Chloe Middleton, who passed away after contracting coronavirus. It is also understood that she had no underlying health conditions.

I’d hope this devastating story would serve as a reminder to young people that nobody is safe from the virus. It’s not just the elderly or those with underlying health conditions who should be cautious.

If that’s not enough for you to want to respect the rules, this story about 51-year-old Simon Cowls might be.

Cowls, who was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer, fears the coronavirus outbreak means he will never hug his wife again.

Cowls and his wife Ali bought a caravan so they could create some precious final memories together. The idea was to take the caravan on a road trip throughout the British countryside. Instead, Cowls spends each night alone in the van, in their backyard, in an effort to shield his vulnerable immune system from the threat of coronavirus.

Instead of spending each night with his wife, he now has to kiss her goodnight via Skype. Thus, he is now begging the British public to respect Johnson’s lockdown so all this can be over.

The answer

I believe we should all stop and understand what this virus is doing. Not just to us, but to those like Simon, our NHS staff, supermarket managers, or the person who just lost their job and can’t work from home. If we do that, then maybe – just maybe – we might see a change in some people’s attitudes. And the next three to six months might not feel all that arduous.

Photo: Cryptographer / Shutterstock

Compassion is the answer we’re looking for. And as the great Jo Cox once said: “We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.” I believe she is still right now.

Otherwise this virus will continue to subjugate our way of life.

Despite the title of this piece, I do not believe we are a nation of hate-fuelled slobs. The title was taken from a  recent Times column by Rod Liddle. I was shocked at Liddle for even suggesting the actions of a minority meant we were all as carefree.

Let us not forget we aren’t just a nation, but a continent that has overcome the worst tragedies imaginable – many of which have tried to destroy our way of life. And every single time, the reason we’ve come out stronger is compassion.

This time around we aren’t sending young men and women out to the battlefield. We have a different type of front line where people of all ages, even retired workers, are doing everything they can to help restore Britain.

The least we can do is thank them, support them, and stay home. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but we will all be better off for it.

So just stay calm, and let’s keep buggering on.

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