‘WAKE UP SATAN’S BRAIN WASHED CATTLE” instructed the sign displayed on Glasgow’s Buchanan Street as I made my way to the office. On Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year, it was nice of the chap holding it to give us all a wee laugh. I’m not sure where Satan keeps his brain-washed cattle, but to be on the safe side I’m going to leave them well alone.

Unfortunately, we are currently facing some rather more pressing threats. And no, I’m not including that of eternal damnation, which our punctuation-averse friend was shouting about with all the convincing force of Gordon Brown preaching about a fictitious devo-max compromise.

Right now the top priority of authorities across the globe is containing a new strain of coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has killed more than a dozen people in that country and is now spreading around the world, with cases confirmed in Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and the United States. At time of writing five people in Scotland, all of whom recently returned here from Wuhan, are being tested and Professor Juergen Haas, head of infection medicine at Edinburgh University, has told the BBC it is “very likely” that cases will be confirmed in the UK.

READ MORE: Scottish Government confirms five being tested for coronavirus

Chinese authorities have acted quickly to shut down entire cities in the hope of containing the fast-spreading virus, but in our increasingly globalised world this action hasn’t come fast enough to stop people from carrying it out of the country as they travel for work, study or leisure.

The National: The Mers virus, first found in 2014, had a mortality rate of 34%The Mers virus, first found in 2014, had a mortality rate of 34%

We can only hope the wall-to-wall news coverage ensures those with corresponding symptoms get themselves tested, and a co-ordinated global effort means the spread is contained. Fast-spreading viruses tend to be milder, which makes it more difficult to tell them apart from common cold and flu strains. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) – first detected in China in 2002 – spread quickly, with more than 8000 cases confirmed globally, but was fatal in only 10% of those, whereas Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) – spread by camels and detected in 2014 – was harder to catch but had a much higher mortality rate of 34%.

As if all of this wasn’t frightening enough – and liable to leaving the average person feeling both anxious and helpless – the experts in charge of the Doomsday Clock chose yesterday to move its second hand even closer to midnight, declaring we have only a metaphorical 100 seconds left to save the world.

READ MORE: Xi Jinping says it's 'crucial' to stop rise of new China virus

The clock was first unveiled by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947, when the nuclear arms race between the United States and USSR was by far the biggest threat to everyone on the planet. It was initially set at seven minutes to midnight, but was put forward to 11.58pm six years later when the two nations tested the first hydrogen bombs. The end of the Cold War bought the planet an extra eight minutes, but by the early 2000s the nuclear threat posed by North Korea was pushing us closer to doom again. Now, reflecting the grim fact that weapons of mass destruction are just one type of several huge man-made threats, alongside climate change and what they call “cyber-based disinformation”, the scientists have joined forces with The Elders, a group of independent global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela to work together for peace and human rights.

The National: The Doomsday Clock now stands at just 100 seconds to midnightThe Doomsday Clock now stands at just 100 seconds to midnight

That group’s chairwoman Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, yesterday stood stony-faced alongside former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon as the amended clock was unveiled. “We ask world leaders to join us in 2020 as we work to pull humanity back from the brink,” she said. “The Doomsday Clock now stands at 100 seconds to midnight, the most dangerous situation that humanity has ever faced. Now is the time to come together – to unite and to act.”

READ MORE: Boris Johnson's Big Ben Brexit stunt would cost public '£50k a bong'

Of course, at this point in time the leaders of the UK seem more concerned about the next seven days than the next seven weeks, let alone the next seven decades, and much more concerned about the symbolic sounding of one real clock than the urgent ticking of any number of symbolic ones. As recently as last Tuesday Boris Johnson said the Government was “working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” to mark the UK’s departure from the EU, prompting a flurry of crowdfunder donations. Unfortunately for these donors – who a Brussels bureaucrat would suggest must have bats in their collective belfry – it was subsequently revealed there was no mechanism by which the more than £200,000 amassed could be used for its intended purpose.

The National:

Instead, a giant clock will be projected on to No 10, counting down to the minute we bid farewell to a union founded on the principles of protecting the peace and fostering cooperation among nations. At a time of multiple global crises – both acute and chronic – what a disgraceful display of priorities from a UK gleefully turning its back on its closest allies.