The Swineageddon Industry – An Update
“Swine flu ‘could kill millions unless rich nations give £900m'” the Observer’s “investigations editor” Rajeev Syal breathlessly reported on Sunday. This revealed that in a masterpiece of the investigative churnalism we have come to know and love from the Observer these days, Mr Syal had uncovered a press release from WHO (“leaked to the Observer”) which promises that “the swine flu pandemic could kill millions and cause anarchy in the world’s poorest nations”.
Blimey! Millions dying and anarchy reigning in the third world, eh? Who’d have thought? We’ll have to put a stop to that! But how?
Luckily the UNOcrats at WHO have thought of a cunning way to avert this pending swineageddon disaster. Yes, millions won’t be killed and anarchy will be dethroned if “£900m can be raised from rich countries to pay for vaccines and antiviral medicines” for the poorest countries, otherwise “the economies of fragile countries [sic] could be destroyed”, according to Mr Syal.
Yes: in other words, the Observer, without fear or favour, has uncovered and exposed yet another begging letter from the UN. However, WHO officials fear they may run into a problem getting rich countries to pony up the readies: the global recession. Because let’s face it: if you’re going to talk about the economies of fragile countries [sic], those fragile countries [sic] could be said to include the UK (forecast budget deficit for this year £175bn), the US (current deficit $11.8 trillion), France (predicted deficit €115bn), Australia (A$32.1 billion) etc etc. I hear Denmark and Finland are doing quite well, heading for a surplus, so maybe Sec-Gen Ban ki-moon had best be getting round there with his begging bowl.
But the signs that impending swineaggedon has gained a toehold in the Third World are already with us, Mr Syal warns those who mock at the end of his story. “The virus [is beginning] to establish itself in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries,” he says. “On Wednesday, health officials told one website that the African continent had recorded 8,187 confirmed cases of swine flu and 41 deaths.”
I feel that when he was doing his investigative googling, Mr Syel might have put “population of African continent” into the search box. There he would have been offered a range of figures that, although differing, might have helped him put everything he had just written into some kind of perspective. He would have been offered a choice of African population figures, from 877.5m (WorldAtlas.com), 944m (something called the African Continent Royal Kingdoms Federation) and 1bn (the population Reference Bureau and USAid).
While he was at it, he might have also have checked out the last worldwide swine flu figures from WHO (June 2009). Cases reported: 89,921. Deaths: 382. (And, one would like to add, Estimated world population: 6.75bn.)
But of course, these figures may change. As Mr Syal gravely reports: “Pandemic experts believe that the western world, including Britain, is facing a second wave of the virus.” Which is just typically greedy of the west, when so many third world countries don’t seem to have even had a first wave yet.
Still, WHO will be pleased to note that at least some money is going into dealing with the pending swineageddon in the west. Underneath Mr Syal’s revelations on the Observer/Guardian website, in a little box labelled “Ads by Google”, is this: “Swine Flu HR Conference. Ensure your HR policies are fit for purpose and limit your legal risks”. The accompanying link takes you to a site where, for a mere £549.00 + VAT (Total £631.35) per delegate, a company called IRS will have “experts in business continuity and the law [to] advise on how to develop a water-tight policy and continuity plan, sustain productivity and customer service, and avoid exposure to legal risks.”
Now that’s what I call a really rational response to this frenzied WHO-Laim Donalduckson-media fuelled scare: Make a few bob out of it.