In Depth

Instant Opinion: to beat coronavirus we must ‘go medieval’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Friday 28 February

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Donald G. McNeil Jr. in The New York Times

on looking to the past to defeat future disease threats

To Take On the Coronavirus, Go Medieval on It

“There are two ways to fight epidemics: the medieval and the modern. The modern way is to surrender to the power of the pathogens: acknowledge that they are unstoppable and to try to soften the blow with 20th century inventions, including new vaccines, antibiotics, hospital ventilators, and thermal cameras searching for people with fevers. The medieval way, inherited from the era of the Black Death, is brutal: Close the borders, quarantine the ships, pen terrified citizens up inside their poisoned cities. For the first time in more than a century, the world has chosen to confront a new and terrifying virus with the iron fist instead of the latex glove.At least for a while, it worked, and it might still serve a purpose.”

2. France’s secretary of state for European affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, in The Guardian

on the future British-European trade negotiations

The EU will respect British sovereignty, and Britain must respect ours

“Our 47-year proximity is, and will remain, de facto, a ‘special relationship’. The UK may seek to develop such ties elsewhere, but the bottom line is that our mutual relationship is irreplaceable. The UK companies I meet tell me just that. They do not want to sever their ties with the EU internal market and its 450 million consumers. How do we meet the expectations of our citizens and industries? In choosing Brexit, the UK unilaterally decided to withdraw from the single market and from many European Union policies. Again it is your choice, but this choice comes with consequences.”

3. Iain Martin in The Times

on Britain’s potential outside of the European Union

Free of EU rules, we could be a high-tech hub

“The government does not want to be subservient to Brussels in the coming decades because it has decided to take a gamble. It rests on a risky but justifiable assumption that the economy is about to change, a lot — that it is about to be reforged, as it tends to be every three or four decades, this time in the furnace of digital innovation. And EU rules, the thinking goes, will hold us back... The vision is of much more tech investment coming to Britain, a sector in which the country is already growing fast. The US and China are giants. But according to a report by entrepreneurs’ network Tech Nation published this year, technology investment in Britain surged by 44% to £10.1 billion in 2019, despite Brexit.”

4. Mary Wakefield in The Spectator

on the dispute between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard

Why did no one believe Johnny Depp?

“It’s worse for a man to hit a woman than the other way around. You might think you disagree — most millennials are bound to disagree - but think of Hollywood, that mirror of all our souls. Think of the hundreds of jolly romcoms in which the girl gets to swat the guy - he’s come on too strong maybe, or there’s a misunderstanding. No big deal. Now just imagine a romcom in which the male protagonist loses his rag and smacks his love interest. A week after the recording was leaked, another window opened up into the Heard/Depp love nest; another demented recording found its way to the Mail, and after this one, the affair can be seen in a very different light. My whole gung-ho approach to women slapping men looks different and I’m having to rethink my prejudices, which is uncomfortable.”

5. Ozgur Ozvatan on Al Jazzera 

on the mainstreaming of racism in Germany

In Germany, racism is becoming more mainstream

“Since the rise of the far-right, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to prominence in the 2017 general election, the racist claim that Germany is facing a ”Muslim invasion“ and that political elites are refusing to take action to stop this has moved from far-right fringes to the political mainstream. Seemingly centre-right politicians who felt threatened by the increasing popularity of the AfD started to pander to these anti-immigrant, Islamophobic views for political gain, allowing far-right narratives to dominate political discussions. This empowered racist individuals to become more vocal and take action to facilitate the rebirth of Germany as an ethnically homogenous, ‘white’ nation.”

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