Coronavirus's priceless gift

The freesias that my daughter sent me are long dead, but the clematis in my garden is in full flower, and the flowers smell of vanilla. It has taken over six weeks for my sense of smell to return. But I was only mildly ill. For many people, the road to recovery is much longer.

Initially, coronavirus was thought to be a respiratory illness causing cough, fever and breathing difficulties. But the range of symptoms that the virus produces is now known to be much wider. Headache, muscle pains, fatigue, nausea, diarrhoea are all now recognised as symptoms of coronavirus infection. There is growing evidence that it disturbs the blood clotting mechanism and can trigger heart attacks or strokes. It also seems to have caused renal or liver failure in some patients. And there are worrying reports of long-term problems such as a weakened heart or immune system.

It's also difficult to diagnose. Some very sick people don't have a cough or fever, or obvious breathing difficulties. Some people's only symptom is sudden loss of the senses of smell and/or taste: this is now regarded as a definitive indicator of coronavirus infection in people without other symptoms. Most worryingly, some people don't get any symptoms at all, and can therefore spread the virus widely without knowing it. Tracing asymptomatic people is now known to be crucial for controlling the spread of the virus.

So coronavirus is a slippery customer. But  we are learning more about it all the time. Eventually, I believe, there will be a treatment, and perhaps a vaccine. Then we can return to something like our normal social selves again.

The virus and the measures taken to contain it are causing untold grief and misery. But there is an unexpected benefit. Under lockdown, the air has cleared and nature has re-colonised our empty spaces. Deadly though it is, coronavirus has brought us a priceless gift - a glimpse of what a pollution-free natural world can be like, and the opportunity to rethink our relationship with nature. We should use this gift wisely, designing new ways of working, producing and caring, so that when the time comes for our economy to wake from its induced slumber, the beauty that has been restored through our collective sacrifice can stay with us for ever.

We will return to our empty spaces again: but this time, I hope, with love and consideration for the plants, birds and animals with whom we share them. And also for our own future selves, and those who will live here when we are gone. Lower pollution levels and greater diversity of wildlife benefit humans too. There is so much loss: but there can also be healing, not only for those who like me have survived the virus, but for the world.

Surely this would be the best memorial for those who are losing their lives.

Related reading:

The scent of flowers
The broken contract
In the countries of the old
We must avoid repeating the same mistakes in our economic response to the coronavirus - The New European

Photograph by me. 


  1. So long as we can resist the gadarene rush to return to the old 'normal'!

  2. Just to say thank you, I value your thoughts on this, as well as the mysteries of banking. :)

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I just read your article "Everything You've Been Told About Government Debt Is Wrong" from two years ago, on the Forbes website.

    After reading it, you can safely be dismissed as just another one of those elitist American economists, forever engaged in the search for a fruit-loop theory to justify the never-ending "privileged position" that your miserable country and that pseudo democratic, class driven, joke of a country that spawned it, ie. England, have enjoyed for almost a century, after hijacking and bastardising the international monetary system for their own benefits!

    Anyway, the days when these two imperialistic countries, unilaterally deciding which countries money is good and who's is not, in order to maintain their little crooked "Elite Clique Club", are numbered, as a new increasingly powerful player has emerged, that will ultimately decide who the new winners and losers will be, going forward into the future.

    China are busy forging alliances with much of the rest of the World and while their system is far from perfect, most countries that have been ripped off for decades by the totally corrupt English and American designed international monetary system, have nothing more left to lose and are prepared to join China's new order to obtain fair and equal parity that has been denied to them for decades, under the current crooked system.

    The majority of the World's nations have had an absolute gutfull of the long and sordid history of hypocrisy and applied double standards, practised by England and the US,that you “inadvertently” alluded to, in your article.

    It is safe to say, England's great days are all behind it, as it is rich only in printed paper money but dirt poor in anything of true value such as land area or mineral resources (Sorry England.....HA!).

    In your article, you dared to disparage Argentina by intentionally excluding them from your privileged little cabal, but yet they have more than 10,000 proven tonnes of gold and the second largest reserves of oil shale in the World and these are just two resources that they own!

    Tell us all again! much of these precious resources does England possess???

    And before you begin to rabbit on about England's so-called technological prowess over other countries, I will point out to you that virtually ALL of their developments such as they are, like those in the USA, have come from the inventive minds of creative foreigners imported from various overseas countries to work in their institutions - NOT from the drugged addled brains of native born Englishmen or Americans!

    Under the current crooked system the pound and dollar attract the most creative minds in the World, but under the new system, England's and America's virtually exclusive monopoly in accessing the very best of the World's most creative thinkers will be one of the major casualties that will prove catastrophic to their respective economies.

    The Old Order was first hijacked and then corruptly altered in order to solely serve the vested interests of a few ridiculously wealthy English and American elites. The New Order will bring much needed fairness by replacing this debased monetary system and replacing it with something that is fairer to the majority of the World's nations. - AND that will be a very good thing for the majority of the World's citizens!

    1. This comment is totally inappropriate here. However, I have posted it, merely to correct a few misconceptions. I will not publish any replies.

      Firstly, I am not American.

      Secondly, I no longer write for Forbes.

      Thirdly, the opinions you express here have nothing to do with the subject of the article, which is about the terrible mistake that advanced countries made after the financial crisis when they imposed austerity to "fix the public finances". The research paper I cited showed that it was unnecessary. And we are now, right this minute, discovering that it was also incredibly harmful. It left them without the resources to handle a global pandemic. The United Kingdom (which you incorrectly label "England", thereby insulting the peoples of the other three countries of the UK), which pared government spending to the bone and underfunded its health and social services for over a decade, has one of the highest death tolls in the world.


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