In Depth

Instant Opinion: ‘Our new dystopia’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Tuesday 31 March

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

1. Hugo Rifkind in The Times

on sacrificing liberties

We will soon tire of Big Brother’s embrace

“This is our new dystopia. Just occasionally, it’s bleakly comic how much it resembles the old ones. Doing the YouTube Joe Wicks exercise class last week, it suddenly struck me that we were spending our early mornings much as Winston Smith spent his, doing physical jerks in front of the telescreen in Victory Mansions. (‘6079 Rifkind H.! Yes, YOU! Bend lower, please!’) Our technology, at least, is not watching us back. Or at least, not yet.”

2. Elisabeth Rosenthal and Emmarie Huetteman in The New York Times

on the hidden costs for hospital visits in the US

He got tested for coronavirus. Then came the flood of medical bills

“Even without an E.R. visit, there are perilous billing risks. Not all hospitals and labs are capable of performing the test. And what if my in-network doctor sends my coronavirus test to an out-of-network lab? Before the pandemic, the Kaiser Health News-NPR Bill of the Month Project produced a feature about Alexa Kasdan, a New Yorker with a head cold, whose throat swab was sent to an out-of-network lab that billed more than $28,000 for testing.”

3. David Adler and Jerome Roos in The Guardian

on the European opposition to a ‘coronabond’ 

Without solidarity between members, the eurozone won't survive coronavirus

“Solidarity is not charity. It is the recognition that the struggle of one is the struggle of all. In a pandemic like Covid-19, that logic is global. But it becomes all the more urgent in the context of a currency union as thoroughly integrated as the eurozone. If the frugal four continue to obstruct a common fiscal response to this crisis, the remaining eurozone countries will be right to ask if they are not better off going their own way.”

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4. Brendan O’Neill in The Spectator

on questioning the experts

Yes, we need experts. But let’s not politicise expertise

“Only experts are allowed to speak at the moment, apparently. The rest of us - us lowly, non-expert plebs - must simply sit at home and await our instructions from on high. Those daily coronavirus news briefings feel, at times, like sermons from the mount. It is there, often from the mouths of people none of us ever voted for, that we discover how we must conduct our everyday lives and how long we will remain under house arrest. The experts are hardly staging a coup: they’re being invited to that podium by politicians. When asked, they admit doubt: the figures could be way out, they say. But if the figures are open to question the policies, apparently, are not. And that’s the danger.”

5. Harry Lambert in the New Statesman

on a lack of preparation

Why weren’t we ready?

“A pandemic as lethal as coronavirus has, for the past 13 years, been deemed a ‘level 5’ threat. The only other level 5 threat has been large-scale biological or nuclear attack, but this was deemed to have a less than one-in-200 chance of happening in the next five years. The risk of a pandemic in that time was deemed to be between one-in-20 and one-in-two... The coronavirus closely resembles the threat anticipated in government planning documents, of a highly infectious respiratory disease that critically hospitalises between one and four per cent of those it infects. And yet the government appears to have been unprepared.”

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