Simon Jenkins
The Guardian
January 16, 2010

Let me recap. Six months ago I reviewed the latest bit of terrorism to emerge from the government’s Cobra bunker, courtesy of Alan Johnson, home secretary. Swine flu was allegedly ravaging the nation. The BBC was intoning nightly statistics on what “could” happen as “the deadly virus” took hold. The chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, bandied about any figure that came into his head, settling on “65,000 could die”, peaking at 350 corpses a day.

Donaldson knew exactly what would happen. The media went berserk. The World Health Organisation declared a “six-level alert” so as to “prepare the world for an imminent attack”. The happy-go-lucky virologist, John Oxford, said half the population could be infected, and that his lowest estimate was 6,000 dead.

The “Andromeda strain” was stalking the earth, and its first victims were clearly scientists. Drugs were frantically stockpiled and key workers identified as vital to be saved for humanity’s future. Cobra alerted the army. Morgues were told to stand ready. The Green party blamed intensive pig farming. The Guardian listed “the top 10 plague books”.

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