How coronavirus may be educating Boris Johnson and his right-wing Cabinet – Helen Martin

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Shops have been stripped as the coronavirus turns everyone’s lives upside-down (Picture: Mark Trowbridge/Getty Images) Copyright: 2020 Getty Images

IF we thought Brexit was an obsessional domination of our lives, we certainly didn’t expect it would become a minor irrelevance. Coronavirus, or Covid-19, has changed the world and every aspect of our day-to-day existence. Many have no chance of keeping a roof over their heads without emergency rules over mortgage and rental waivers.

Many careers and long-term jobs are gone or put on hold. Schools are closed, let alone entertainment and social venues. Death is in the air.

There are debates about how slow the UK Government was to react, and how incapable Boris Johnson is as PM. I admit I don’t think any prime minister, president or national leader would have been clever, informed or experienced enough to deal with this perfectly.

The public are at odds with each other as some selfishly dive into supermarkets to stockpile so that others, with a controlled sharing attitude, are left without toilet rolls, handwash, or a pack of spaghetti.

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Young people believe they are physically safe with no symptoms, or a mild illness and early recovery. They don’t accept that smoking, asthma, pregnancy or any undetected immune deficiency can put them in danger too.

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Some landlords are furious that their tenants may be able to waive rent for at least a few months. We have two rental flats without mortgages, and as we are aware some tenants are working in hospitality and other roles under threat, we decided long before government statements that their rent payments might have to be temporarily wiped out.

The simple theory I’d like all ­governments, councils and any finance companies to accept is that if we want the UK and Scotland to rapidly restore life and the economy to how it was, nothing should be closed and shut down, just frozen.

A perfect example is someone who owns a restaurant or local company and has a mortgage or rent on the premises. They can’t pay it without sufficient trade, and may not have a fat savings account. It stops operating, but they retain ownership and shouldn’t have to pay mortgage or rent, or be covered by a loan which would build up their debt. They need a government allowance to live on. Their staff can’t be paid but they should keep their job too even though they’re not working. They too should be supported by the living allowance, a mortgage holiday or rent waiver period. If their landlords have a mortgage, that too should be covered by government rules and their mortgage company.

Individuals can’t survive without all that support. So, everything is put on hold. But as soon as the virus has passed and everyone is able to immediately go straight back to the job and work their pants off, the business rapidly heads back to pre-coronavirus time, probably with a surge of customers. How can the government afford all that plus pouring money into the NHS? Forget HS2, forget replacing Trident, even temporarily freeze Brexit.

Cut out any development projects. People and their homes, wages and pensions are vital. How can large investment or finance companies accept such costs? Because it’s better and easier for them to just resume charging again rather than facing a country where businesses have totally disappeared and they have to start from scratch. We know from the US that extreme capitalism can’t support this disaster. Saving lives comes first. But I hope and pray that Covid-19 might have educated Boris and his extreme right-wingers that their job is the country’s people and decent income, not just having a wealthy international reputation and making the rich even richer.