Between the United Kingdom’s declaration of war on the German Reich in September 1939 and the latter’s capitulation in May 1945 some 61,000 civilians were killed in the UK by enemy action, principally in the so-called “Blitz” or aerial bombardments of June 1940 to May 1941. Despite the ludicrously low official figures published in recent weeks by the British authorities it’s now estimated that in the first six months of 2020 some 65,000 people have died in the UK through contact with the Covid-19 pandemic. And that this number is likely to rise during the rest of the year. If we exclude the statistics for military losses suffered by Britain in the conflict with the Axis powers and look instead at non-combatant fatalities alone it’s almost certain that more British people have suffered premature deaths over the last twenty-four weeks than were killed during the entirety of World War II.
That is an incredible statistic. Yet it is one that the political and media classes in London seem, if not at ease with, certainly not infuriated by. With a few notable exceptions there is an almost blasé reaction to all this preventable mortality and the subsequent suffering and grief it has caused. The population of an average town in England has disappeared in the space of a few months and many English, Welsh and Scots have reacted as if this were nothing more than a freakish blip in the ever-triumphant history of their exceptional island nation. The desire to “get back to normal” is creating an almost immediate form of collective amnesia in the British press and commentariat, with the debate moving on to concerns about the economy and trade, the opening of shops and schools, of pubs and restaurants, of soccer matches and music festivals, and putting the pandemic out of sight and out of mind.
At least until the next substantial wave of coronavirus swamps the United Kingdom in a few months from now.