When big diseases spread like the plague they almost invariably are characterised as coming from some horrible foreign parts, transmitted by dastardly foreigners. Just a few examples. Venereal disease was described in the 18th century as the French Pox and linked to the French Army. Spanish ‘flu has entered medical law, as has the more generic Asian ‘flu. Even trees are effected; think of Dutch elm disease. Virulent biting insects in Oxfordshire are branded as Blandford flies. Although the Chinese cover-up of COVID-19 outburst was reprehensible, I have some sympathy for their wish to avoid the balls of aggressive protein being regarded as the “China virus”, the phrase that gushed from the mouth of Trump. Far from uniting us, the signs are that the pressure of pandemic is resulting in enhanced nationalism and national self-interest. Not encouraging.
I am due to be vaccinated on Saturday. Living 10 miles from Oxford, it would be odd not to receive the “Oxford Vaccine”. I am pleased that ‘my’ university is in the forefront of the search for a vaccine. But it is (or should be) a world search. Suppressing nationalism and parochial attitudes is not easy.