How will the world be different after coronavirus? Will everything return to the way it was or will there be lasting change? For this country, there is one thing that will clearly be different: the government’s approach to China. I understand that while Boris Johnson’s grand, integrated foreign policy review has been put on hold because of the pandemic, the work on Anglo-Sino relations has been brought forward as a matter of urgency.
The Hong Kong government has recently extended its Covid regulations banning gatherings of more than eight people until 4 June. How convenient. Last year, according to organisers, 180,000 people gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre on 4 June 1989. In future, being an organiser may well land you in court under a new national security law, which Beijing announced last week at its annual National People’s Congress.
Every morning, like sun-seekers stampeding to get their towels on the sunbeds at a cheap Spanish hotel, it’s a race to the patio for my neighbours and me. Each of us in the line of terraced houses on the village green must try to be the first to get into their garden, because the first one out there reserves the air space. If it’s the neighbour who works in telecoms then we’re in for merger talks all day. Her firm is in the middle of a big deal, the negotiations for which she’s carrying out on her patio via laptop conference calling.
As a pathologist, I’m used to people thinking that my job mainly involves dealing with death. But nothing could be further from the truth. That is why I and many of my colleagues are so dismayed by changes introduced during the coronavirus epidemic which mean that pathology has not been able to play the role that it should have in helping to understand this new disease.
The word ‘pathology’ tends to conjure up images of body bags, mortuaries and murder investigations.
It now appears that school’s out till after the summer for pretty much all secondary pupils. The loudest cries, an equal mix of exaltation and despair, come from those who were due to sit GCSE and A-l-evel exams this term: groups now split between delight at unstructured months of leisure time and anxiety that lackadaisical efforts in mock exams won’t prove enough to secure them the required grades.
Yet my sympathies in this stalemate lie with those in Year 12, or the lower-sixth, the sandwich year between the two public exam groups.
I’m embarrassed every Thursday. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. The outpouring of love for NHS workers at 8 p.m. each week has been touching. Who wouldn’t want to be clapped and cheered? But quietly among ourselves, many of us in the health service have increasingly felt it’s misplaced. I’ve come to dread it. It makes me wince. The fact is that the NHS is currently letting down thousands upon thousands of patients. When the dust has settled, I fear that we will be responsible for the death or morbidity of countless people.
You wouldn’t have thought that Starbucks’s pricing policy could influence rock history, but that’s what happened. In the early 1990s, when Mike Kroeger was working in one of its Canadian stores, a cup of coffee cost $1.95. So Kroeger spent all day handing customers their five cents change, saying: ‘Here’s your nickel back.’ When he later joined a band, and it needed a name, he simply combined the last two words into one.