Post-Brexit Britain is no match for public health emergencies like the coronavirus

One of the two Chinese nationals in Vietnam who tested positive for coronavirus is treated in Cho Ray hospital in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday: Vietnam News Agency/AFP/Getty

I do not believe the coronavirus from Wuhan, China, is going to pan out as the new “Spanish flu”, though it’s clear why mutating strains get folk antsy. The Spanish flu – so named because Spain, neutral during the First World War, was the first country to openly acknowledge the problem – killed between 20 million and 50 million people.

However, as the world continues to set up perfect conditions for a pandemic – failing to tackle poverty and lack of healthcare while abandoning uncounted numbers in refugee camps around the globe – Britain should take a moment to consider its post-Brexit position.

Where we once punched above our weight, the UK has squandered decades of the kind of credibility that gets you taken seriously by nations that matter. But with all the bitching about blue passports, the wrong-shaped bananas, the recent statement ditching EU business regulations for no reason while irritating the volatile US administration – just what the blue blazes do Brits think would actually happen if/when a new pandemic hits? And that is before you factor in how the Tory government, in its two most recent manifestations, has played the jingoism card hard, alienating potential EU medics and all the kinds of support folk who keep the NHS mechanism working need.

Perhaps Boris Johnson can get the bell tolling for us all in due course…

Amanda Baker
Edinburgh

The Rohingya genocide

The ruling of the International Court of Justice to end the genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar is long overdue. Consoling words are ineffective in the face of harrowing and heartbreaking stories of killing, rape, harassment, desperation, discrimination and destitution. Refugees are often gripped by the clutches of poverty, fear and uncertainty. They have witnessed unspeakable suffering. Children have become orphans, women have been brutalised and villages have been set ablaze. But they have also shown unrivalled resilience and heroism in defiance of insurmountable odds.

It’s time to stop arguing about what constitutes genocide and act swiftly and decisively to alleviate needless suffering.

Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London NW2

Laurence Fox stunt is a dangerous fallacy

In the words of the Nobel laureate playwright Harold Pinter, “It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter”. This is the inverted Orwellian universe in which actor Laurence Fox resides. A world in which racism is just a myth and the propaganda of the “wokes”, as he berates them. The long history of slavery, segregation and contemporary institutional racism simply never happened!

He seems intent on outperforming others of his ilk, from Donald Trump to Nigel Farage and Katie Hopkins. Like them, he speaks for an imagined oppressed white majority. This is not to belittle the suffering of poor white working-class people, who suffer like their black counterparts. It would have been wise to ignore such a cynical publicity stunt. But the stakes could not be higher and real people will suffer as a result of the ongoing wave longing for a bygone era, where slaves knew their place and were grateful for being allowed to work in the kitchen and not the fields.

His arguments come across as childish and without deep thought or research. His statement that the race debate is boring demonstrates an old right-wing tactic to shut the topic altogether.

Ali Abbas
London NW10

Nandy’s handy repartee

I read John Rentoul’s column (Lisa Nandy’s ferocious attack on New Labour gives her a final stab at victory, 22 January) with interest and now sense this woman has a lot to offer this Labour leadership contest.

But I must admit I still feel that Keir Starmer, with his legal, forensic brain might fare better with hoisting Boris Johnson with his own petard when the occasion arises, as it undoubtedly will.

However, Nandy is now ticking many boxes. She appears to be a thoughtful woman with many incisive views. There is more to her that admittedly I realised and if she floored Piers Morgan, there is much more to be celebrated. He is an interviewer who tries to ride roughshod over his interviewees, so to stand firm and composed is “gold star” territory. This will be an interesting contest and hopefully the start of the long-awaited renaissance of this party, which is much needed as a valid and trenchant opposition in these parlous heavy-weighted Conservative government times we are forced to live in.

Judith A Daniels
Great Yarmouth

The 51st state

So the Brexit button has finally been pushed. The next question is whether the country will soar like a bird as the Leave campaign has told everybody, or if this could be the start of a rollercoaster ride with more downs than ups.

However, the real reason for Brexit, is becoming clearer. Leave campaigners seem to want a very close trade relationship with the US, but leaving the EU to join forces with Trump would not have been as easy to sell to the general public as getting sovereignty back.

Fifty years ago in the school playground, we would joke that Britain would one day be the US’s 51st state. Many a true word is said in jest.

Alan Hutchinson
Address supplied