Instant Opinion

‘Our excessive hygiene practices could imperil our immune systems’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press


Markham Heid in The New York Times

Can we learn to live with germs again?

on welcoming back bugs 

“For more than a century – since scientists first learned that unseen germs cause infection and illness – we’ve tended to think of sterile environments as the safe ones,” writes Markham Heid in The New York Times. At the start of the pandemic, “when we didn’t know any better, it was sensible to disinfect as much as possible, including our groceries, clothing and personal spaces”. But experts are starting to watch this “onslaught” of disinfectant “with a mounting sense of dread”. Scientists worry about our “human microbiome, the trillions of bacteria that live on and inside our bodies”. Our “excessive hygiene practices, inappropriate antibiotic use and lifestyle changes such as distancing may weaken those communities going forward in ways that promote sickness and imperil our immune systems”, he adds. “By sterilising our bodies and spaces, they argue, we may be doing more harm than good.”


Editorial board of the Financial Times

The spy who LinkedIn with me

on social media spies

“What is social media good for, if not a bit of spying?” asks the Financial Times. “Companies deploy it for due diligence on applicants, ex-partners check their former loved ones’ profiles, and in what should be a shock to no one, actual spies use it too.” This week, MI5 warned 450,000 civil servants and partners in academia and industry that they were “potential targets for agents of hostile states with sham profiles on social media and professional-networking sites”. The pandemic “may have intensified hostile states’ online efforts”. After all, “even spies find it hard to travel during lockdowns, and so networking sites provide a cheap and effective way of carrying on the business of espionage”.


James Forsyth in The Times

How the Tories can appeal to young voters

on doing the right thing

Although Covid-19 hit the elderly hardest, “it’s the young who have suffered most of the collateral damage from the pandemic, from truncated educations to missed life opportunities”, writes James Forsyth in The Times. “An advert for a dating app puts it well: ‘You can tell the grandkids you met when kissing was illegal’.” As Forsyth says: “The government knows it has a problem with young people, as it demonstrated with its 95% mortgage guarantee scheme to help more of them on to the housing ladder.” But they’ll need more “radical” policy plans if 18- to 35-year-olds “are to feel it’s in their interest to vote Conservative”. “It all adds up to a simple point: young people have more than done their bit during the pandemic. The government must now do the right thing by them.”


David Lammy in The Guardian

This war graves report shows Britain must face its colonial past with honesty

on unremembered soldiers

While visiting the Voi cemetery in southern Kenya when filming a documentary, “I read the names of British captains and corporals who died in the country in the first world war and paid my solemn respects”, writes David Lammy in The Guardian. “I then asked the caretaker where the bodies of the Africans who also served Britain were buried. He pointed into the distance, behind the fence of the neatly-kept grounds into the bush, where dogs pee next to discarded plastic bags, bottles and other bits of miscellaneous rubbish.” Some soldiers were commemorated only collectively, on memorials, others in registers rather than in stone and “some of them were not commemorated at all”. “No condolences can ever make up for the indignity suffered by the unremembered,” Lammy says. But an apology offers a chance “as a nation to take a fresh look at our collective history”.


Stephen Bush in the i

The Super League implosion means we still don’t know if Boris Johnson is willing to tear up the Tory playbook

on political football

Conservative MPs of the kind who like “both football and free markets”, looked on with agitation this week as Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden vowed to prevent English clubs from joining the European Super League, writes Stephen Bush in the i. While they knew “the plans would have gone against the very principles that make watching football worthwhile”, they also feared “becoming the type of country in which new laws are retroactively applied”. “But we were never to find out how committed Dowden was to stopping the contest, because in the end, the contest stopped itself.” “Like the footballing authorities”, his statement was full of words like “could” and “might”, “which sometimes means that a politician definitely will do something if pushed, and sometimes means that they definitely won’t, but want to look busy”. Ultimately the incident highlights how “we still aren’t any closer to knowing whether or not [Boris] Johnson’s ministers really are willing to tear up the old Tory playbook, or if they are just fond of giving speeches which hint they might”. 


Should the UK be worried about the Beta variant in Spain and France?
Holidaymakers on a beach in Spain
Expert’s view

Should the UK be worried about the Beta variant in Spain and France?

‘Pay for your own heart op’
Today's newspaper front pages
Today’s newspapers

‘Pay for your own heart op’

‘Simone Biles insisted on her right not to be hurt’
Simone Biles
Instant Opinion

‘Simone Biles insisted on her right not to be hurt’

Government accused of ‘flawed decisions’ based on ‘misleading’ Covid data
NHS staff wearing PPE treat patients suffering from Covid-19
Behind the scenes

Government accused of ‘flawed decisions’ based on ‘misleading’ Covid data

Popular articles

Why your AstraZeneca vaccine may mean no European holidays
Boris Johnson receives his second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine
Getting to grips with . . .

Why your AstraZeneca vaccine may mean no European holidays

‘Wobbling’ Moon will cause worldwide flooding, Nasa warns
Flooding in Florida after Hurricane Irma hit in 2017
Why we’re talking about . . .

‘Wobbling’ Moon will cause worldwide flooding, Nasa warns

What next as homes raided in search for Hancock affair whistle-blower?
Matt Hancock leaving No. 10 with Gina Coladangelo in May 2020
The latest on . . .

What next as homes raided in search for Hancock affair whistle-blower?

The Week Footer Banner