The coronavirus-related death of Tim Brooke-Taylor, one of the venerables of British comedy, will provoke re-runs of his shows.
That commemoration may even extend to re-running the 1948 pre-Monty Python sketch, ‘The Four Yorkshiremen’, which was more anarchic and may have better stood the test of time. In it, successful businessmen compare their “we-lived-in-hole-in-road” origins. The sketch has a cutting, new relevance today as the uneven capabilities of various countries to respond to the pandemic unfold.
America, the richest, most powerful nation in history, is reduced to fighting a rearguard action and opening mass graves. How that crisis plays out remains and open question — as does the fate of president Donald Trump, the chief architect of that avoidable catastrophe. That there is still a possibility around his ambition for a second White House term points to a deep malaise that, in the longer term, may be as dangerous as the pandemic.
If America — average weekly wage $865 — struggles, imagine, how one to the poorest five countries in the world, the Democratic Republic of Congo — average annual income $870 — copes? Not only is DRC dealing with its first coronavirus deaths, it is fighting a resurgent ebola epidemic. Just as these contrasts challenge humanity, they also challenge fundamental beliefs and social systems. It is of course ironic that, at the precise moment when such a challenge demands our attention and resources, we are otherwise engaged.
China’s authorites are newly engaged along its northern border with Russia, where there has been a new rise in cases. China’s national health commission has identified Chinese workers repatriating as the source of the outbreak. It is hard to think of a moment when so many people, in so many countries, wanted so fervently to believe an official statement as a new, second-round outbreak from a community source, would be a significant blow to confidence and not just in China but across the world.
Spain is confident that it can roll back tough measures controlling movement as it enters its second month of lockdown. A few businesses tentatively reopened. However, the majority of the population are still confined at home. Shops, bars, and public spaces will be closed for at least two weeks. The relaxation came as Spain’s overnight death toll fell to 517 yesterday from Sunday’s 619, bringing the total to 17,489. It was the smallest daily increase since tracking began. Belgium yesterday reported 303 deaths, bringing its toll to 3,903, which is proportionally bigger than Italy’s. France had a slight fall in deaths to 315 bringing the country’s toll to 14,393.
This contraction is, according to Walter Ricciardi, a scientific adviser to the Italian government, reflected across Europe but he warned that the plateau could persist for 20-25 days before a definitive decrease. Those positive trends are reflected in Ireland, albeit in a minor way. The backlog of 35,000 tests has been reduced to 11,000.
The trend begins to look positive but, as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned, our greatest challenge is just ahead. We must be patient and resilient for a while yet.