WE learnt on Monday that lockdown restrictions are being extended for one more month. Like millions of others up and down the country I was shocked and quite deflated by this depressing news. However, having had time to reflect, I feel certain that there is a very cunning plan behind Boris Johnson’s seemingly pointless and cowardly dithering. You may disagree and be of the opinion that if someone looks and sounds like a pathetic, spineless, lying nincompoop then he is indeed a pathetic, spineless, lying nincompoop. It’s a fair point, but please hear me out on this one.
People are still very frightened. They have been queuing up in their thousands to get vaccinated and now eighty per cent of the population has had at least one jab. But this still is not enough to make us feel safe, hence the substantial support for vaccine passports and now child vaccination. Face masks are still everywhere. Not only do we see masks where they are a legal requirement but also on the high street and in the park. Many people are wearing them in their cars and on their bicycles. The other day I saw my neighbour wearing one in his back garden. The really worrying thing is that he was in his swimming pool at the time. Recent polls suggest that eighty per cent of people are completely behind Covid restrictions and a large majority want them to continue until we are all completely safe from the virus. There is genuine fear amongst people everywhere and there is a very good reason for this: They have all become nerds.
This pandemic of nerdishness has completely beleaguered this once brave nation of ours. We have become a society of hopeless, wretched supernerds. We put on our nerdy masks to go to the pub, where we check in with our nerdy apps and clean our hands with nerdy hand sanitiser. When inside we greet our friends with a nerdy elbow rub. We take our nerdy mask off to sit down and socialise and then we put it on again to go to the loo. Our level of nerdishness makes Mr Bean look like James Bond. Many of us who find all of this weird do it anyway because we are too nerdy to realise nothing will happen to us if we refuse. Nerdishness has become ingrained into our psyche and our British way of life.
Mr Johnson is faced with the impossible task of putting an end to all this strange behaviour. He cannot simply say the virus has disappeared, because no one would believe him. On the other hand it would be political suicide for him to admit that the whole thing was an overreaction in the first place. His only option is to give people the opportunity, one by one, to come to that realisation themselves and to develop the confidence to start acting like normal people. In other words we need to develop nerd immunity. This cannot be achieved by the government lifting restrictions: it can only be achieved by them doing the very opposite and pushing our patience and tolerance to its limits. Johnson must therefore ensure that we all have continued exposure to never-ending, ridiculous coronavirus regulations until we build up a natural resistance to it and stop acting like frightened little nerds.
So how does the human body actually develop nerd immunity? I put this question to Professor Dai Ifyougettit, Head of Immunology at Cardiff University Hospital. The professor recounted the story of Kevin, one of the volunteers in his clinical study group, who has fully recovered from being a nerd. When this all started back in March 2020, like many people Kevin thought the pandemic was just as deadly as the Spanish flu of 1918. However, increased exposure to Covid news conferences on the BBC made Kevin start to wonder if things were being exaggerated. As restrictions became more ludicrous and unnecessary Kevin began to start questioning things. The official narrative just didn’t add up and even David Icke began to make a bit more sense than Matt Hancock. ‘I hadn’t become a Covid denier or a conspiracy theorist as such,’ Kevin said, ‘but I had serious doubts about what the Government was telling us.’
Professor Ifyougettit explained how Kevin’s change in perception was the body’s immune system doing its job. To protect him from nerdishness Kevin’s internal defences had forced him to do something that did not come naturally: critical thinking. Some individuals may have major concerns about the adverse side effects of critical thinking and are therefore hesitant. However, if we are to achieve nerd immunity we will all have to be more open to thinking critically. Just one application of critical thinking would be enough to give someone sixty per cent nerd immunity but another one a few weeks later would give up to ninety per cent. After that, critical thinking boosters might be needed. I asked the professor if a stronger dose of critical thinking would offer complete protection from nerdishness. ‘No, it is important to get the dose exactly right,’ he said. ‘Too much critical thinking can cause adverse side effects, such as making you even nerdier.’
Many people are asking why the situation is so different in the US. In particular, states such as Florida and Texas have already made excellent progress with their levels of nerd immunity. I questioned one of the epidemiologists working with the Government advisory body NERDTAG (New and Emerging Really Dorkish Threats Advisory Group). She told me it is likely that progress in some American states has been possible due to pre-existing levels of immunity against nerdishness. On average Americans are a little less nerdy than Brits so they may have had some protection already. She said that the estimated level of nerd immunity in the UK is currently standing at about ten per cent but this has to rise to at least fifty per cent if we are ever to return to normal.
Clearly we have some way to go and so Boris Johnson is doing exactly the right thing in having us on for a little longer until the penny drops. If restrictions are simply lifted at this stage we are under serious threat of a third wave of nerdishness. This would be utterly disastrous for both the country and the Government. Mr Johnson really has no choice but to remain in lockdown and continue his Simple Simon routine until all age groups have been given the opportunity and the incentive to think critically about their nerdish compliance.
Of course some people might argue that although this is a clever and pragmatic strategy there is a hefty price to pay for it. UK debt is over two trillion pounds already and it is rising all the time. More financial compensation will be necessary for any continuation of lockdown measures and so we will undoubtedly need to borrow even more money. However, anyone who knows anything about getting into debt will tell you what you need to do when you cannot afford to pay off what you owe. You borrow more. Then you keep borrowing more and more until paying it back is absolutely inconceivable. That is the only way you can get your debt written off.
So we’re in this for the long haul. There are no easy solutions and we are all going to have to grin and bear it. But don’t despair because if we go through enough pain, nerd immunity will be the light at the end of the tunnel.