empty shelves

They create the idea that we are in the midst of a terrifying plague that will kill us all, when the truth – though disturbing – is far less frightening. Their worst effect is to savage the economy by scaring people away from normal activities. Empty shelves are pictured above in an Asda store in London
Yes, you are right. We have gone quite mad. I know that many people are thinking this, but dare not say so. I will be accused of all kinds of terrible things for taking this view - but that is another aspect of how crazy things are.

Yes, coronavirus poses a risk. No, our response to it is not intelligent or useful. In fact, I think it is increasingly damaging and will soon become more so.

The key word here is proportion. There is nothing wrong with simple, practical precautions.

I have for many years believed that door handles pose one of the greatest threats to health, and try never to touch them with the naked hand. I was taught from my earliest years to wash my hands before eating.

I am a health faddist. I work at a standing desk. For many years I have walked and bicycled wherever I can.

I often take the stairs rather than the lift. I can't understand how anyone in my generation or younger can smoke, given what we know about it.

I regard sugar as a delicious poison to be avoided as much as possible. I drink little. I get up early and go to bed early.

I believe cars are heart-attack machines, noisy, smelly, ugly devices, which depreciate in the gutter while they are not stopping us from exercising and wrecking our lower backs.

Yet our country is so badly planned that few families can manage without them nowadays.

For these reasons, I reckon that my risk from coronavirus is quite small. If I catch it, and I quite possibly will, I doubt it will trouble me all that much.

The truth is, people with what are called 'underlying conditions', many of which follow decades without exercise, are in danger not just from coronavirus but from almost everything.

If the Government is so worried about them, why has it followed transport and housing policies that have made it hard and dangerous to walk or bicycle, and so devastated the health of the people?

Why is the sale and possession of cigarettes still even legal? I wouldn't normally raise these questions quite so fiercely, but the ever-increasing panicky bossiness of the authorities is annoying me.

I must ask them: are you really worried about our health, or are you just afraid of being blamed for a small number of the deaths that your policies are causing?

And are you just anxious to try to demonstrate how good you are? In such matters, we fuss where we do not need to, and do nothing where urgent action is required.

If a train crashed tomorrow and ten people died, it would be huge headlines for days, even though railways are, in fact, extremely safe. An inquiry would be held.

But each year more than 1,700 people die in road crashes, and another 25,000 are seriously injured, and it barely registers, because their lives are ended or ruined in ones and twos.

Governments distil fear into power. In a way, they are right to do so. We fear foreign invasion. The State builds a navy to protect us. We fear crime and disorder.

The State hires police and builds prisons. But they have become less and less good at these basic tasks, and perhaps they now seek other fields, where they can show how much we need them.

I have serious doubts about whether our Government has any idea how to slow the spread of this virus. I suspect it quietly reached these shores long before anyone noticed.

But I am quite sure that many of the current panic measures do far more harm than good. They create the idea that we are in the midst of a terrifying plague that will kill us all, when the truth - though disturbing - is far less frightening.

Their worst effect is to savage the economy by scaring people away from normal activities. I went to the cinema last Sunday evening and there were six people in the theatre for what ought to be a successful film. A florist known to me has just lost hundreds of pounds in business from cancelled events this weekend.

We have all seen the staggering, tottering behaviour of the stock markets, possibly triggered and certainly worsened by virus frenzy. No doubt it will soon become impossible, under some frantic Emergency Powers Regime, to make this point.

I'll be accused of giving aid and comfort to the virus, or of spreading Alarm and Despondency. But before the roadblocks go up, and you need a pass to go to work, I thought I'd say it anyway.