‘New year, new me’ is not supposed to apply to infectious diseases, but January has seen the rollout of a new Covid-19 variant across Britain. Released just before the turn of the year, the expansion pack is believed to be 70% more transmissible than the vanilla version, and even if it kills you is still cheaper than most DLC.
As with all new arrivals, it has been hard to find a suitable name. At its birth the British government called it ‘VUI-202012/01’, corresponding to ‘variant under investigation’ and December 2020. Now in its adolescence, the strain prefers to go by ‘VOC-202012/01’, the variant now being, like most teenagers, ‘of concern’.
If nothing else this proves we should train at least one English lit grad a year to name stuff. But as the variant was discovered in Kent in South East England, some people have started calling it ‘the British virus’, presumably because Tom Clancy is dead enough not to sue for title format infringement.
According to Bild, a German newspaper, chancellor Angela Merkel said, “If we don’t manage to stop this British virus, then we will have 10 times the number of cases by Easter.” French scientists have likewise referred to “the English variant”, the country having a long history of standing up for Scottish interests.
Given the state of British manufacturing it is refreshing to be credited with inventing something with global impact. Even so, it is disappointing that ‘the Kent virus’ has been overlooked; those smug bastards have ridden long enough on that ‘garden of England’ shtick.
Readers will recall that as the pandemic was originally spreading we set aside the unimportant task of actually dealing with it to ensure we’d decided whether ‘the China virus’ was racist. It is therefore right that we have a thorough discussion about whether Anglophobia will be stoked by the new nomenclature.
Before we British protest too much, it is worth considering the previous maladies that have earned the ‘English disease’ epithet. According to this entirely unsourced Wikipedia list, they include economic stagnation, football hooliganism, writing compound Dutch words as separate words, depression, rickets and – most frightfully – homosexuality.
After Brexit, Britain is also more widely in need of a re-brand. Where once the international community associated us with political chaos, diplomatic gaffes and economic decline, the new variant will let us pivot into the digital age, becoming pioneers in extremely viral content.
So while naysayers will label the new variant a challenge, I see it as an opportunity for us to re-establish ourselves as an international player, all while weaning ourselves off those inferior Chinese imports that Nigel Farage is rightly urging us to ditch.