You can read part 1 here.
Take this reporting from the Daily Mirror November 23 1937.
Typhoid Menace spread to three new districts last night. Starting in Croydon with the scourge spread to Purley, Wallington and Coulsdon. 149 cases were reported and 12 people died. The Minister for Health Kingsley Wood said an enquiry would take place into the cause of the epidemic and the steps taken to deal with it at ‘an early date’.
‘Business as usual’ was the order of the day in Croydon as the numbers of people affected increased to 169. “People showing symptoms may have been affected three weeks ago,” said the town clerk. Then, as now, personal cleanliness was advised, especially when preparing food or eating. The clerk added: “Ministry of Health officials and the Corporation are working to track down every possible source.” Interestingly, a nurse who had left Croydon in October to treat a private patient was transported to Worcester isolation hospital. A reminder that we have not always lived with the comfortable knowledge that the appliance of medical science and the NHS was there to wrap us in a comfort blanket and that our great grandparents were not, it seems given to hyperbole and bouts of media driven fear and hysteria.
As difficult as times are at the moment, times of health uncertainty for many, particularly older people (which now apparently starts at the age of 55 for men), it should not be forgotten that most of those who have died have been suffering from sometimes two or three underlying health issues and/or living in close proximity to others. Not that any of that makes it less distressing for any family following the death at any age of a loved one.
The economic effects have been ‘shielded’ from the middle income public sector worker, the highly paid among us, along with media and entertainment celebrity, quite happy to agree to continued lockdown measures while at the same time complaining about the actions taken by government following, on the face of it, unbiased ‘scientific advice’. The funding of some of these people and institutions are not very transparent, something the Humphreys of this world so far have not investigated.
In other countries, there seems to be the same general acceptance. In Mexico – not one of the world’s most wealthy countries, health services complain of shortages, several areas have introduced new corona virus lockdown regulations and so on. One American resident recently wrote: “I am reminded of not only the privilege I unconsciously take for granted, but also the economic reality of a country with fewer options available to it.” As people in the UK get their full pay checks or furlough pay this month, hundreds of thousands are either waiting for their universal credit payment or not in many cases. Mexicans can look forward to the fact that there will be no such assistance available to them. They worry, not about the effects of corona virus, but more about the economic outlook, financial hardship. Getting sick and saving their health service is not top of their list of worries. Indeed, the fixation on personal health is seen often as the preserve of the middle and upper classes and is a luxury they cannot afford.
We too could and should take notice of that. We are subjected to a continuous barrage of anti-government propaganda, a media fixated on ‘gotcha’ reporting, using the NHS as another vehicle to mould opinion, a media which was reporting just a few weeks ago how poor much of the NHS was, long queues of ambulances parked outside accident and emergency departments for example and never reporting why. But to the many, if not most, this went unnoticed as unaffected as they were then. It is only now, as this emergency shows that they too could need medical assistance for reasons beyond their control, they begin to show any interest, let alone concern and even then these same people think that by donating money the problems will be solved. There is a lot of privilege rearing its head here, people accustomed to buying what they want when they want, reluctant to keep to sensible guidelines for the protection of us all, panic buying, booking several delivery slots on various supermarket online services, moving from their house in town to their holiday home and so on. Greater protection from financial and health worries, but failing to even notice the attack on civil liberties and personal freedom, because, to use their mantra, ‘if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear’, to which I would respond – ‘yet’.
At the farm shop, getting our weekly shop of vegetables, I was reminded of these stark contrasts; surrounded by middle-income earners, all driving prestige 4×4 vehicles mostly two or three years old, (although I hear that the FSA is being overwhelmed with enquires about car leasing and finance holidays) mostly women pushing trolleys full of produce. No real disruption to their comfortable lives here in the Wold but in stark contrast to ‘food banks’ who are reporting a huge surge in referrals and who are now asking for more donations and volunteer staff. While older people, often living alone, are deliberately – in my view – being alarmed by the media and treated to the sight and sound of political nonentities, telling them (for their own good of course) they must stay at home and not go out, in order that the NHS, which they paid for all their working lives, can be saved without any mention of concerns for the health, security and financial harm being done.
‘All in it together’? I don’t think so, in fact the opposite seems to be the case, and if that is the case, I just heard from a relative living in leafy suburbia that a neighbour who had left a case of beer with a thank you note for the ‘bin men’ found both had been stolen.