IT’S certainly one way of dealing with a deadly contagion. The UK Prime Minister told those two grand political inquisitors, Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby of a cunning plan to deal with the coronavirus.

“Perhaps you could take it on the chin; take it all in one go and allow the disease as it were to move through the population.”

To be scrupulously fair to Boris Johnson, he didn’t actually say he favoured this strategy, merely that it was one of several views that had been put to him. It was certainly an approach he felt was worthy of consideration though, else why would he have mentioned it at all?

Philip and Holly obviously thought so, too, as they looked serious and nodded thoughtfully; the look they deploy when celebrities tell them about their brand new pets.

I wonder which of his aides offered this solution. Let me think: could it have been Dominic “let’s have designer babies on the NHS” Cummings? Perhaps it could have been one of those ministers and advisers who thought that creating a hostile environment for people of West Indian origin is an acceptable way of dealing with immigration.

You can see why a “let’s-take-it-on-the-chin” approach to virus management appeals to your common-or-garden Tory. It’s like applying the principles of monetarism to disease management.

The National:

In this way you don’t actually tax your resources dealing with the problem but rather let the pestilential free market roam where it will. “It’s just nature’s pruning fork, old chap, what … ”

It’s quite an appealing scenario for those who believe there are just too many poor, infirm and elderly for a modern, free-market economy to deal with. They know and we know who would be most expected to take one for the team if we allowed a disease simply “to move through the population”.

Let’s be honest here: we all know what we’re meant to think when a newsreader informs us that “the latest victim is believed to have had underlying health problems”.

If Covid-19 hadn’t got the poor chap then something else would have been along in a minute. So, you know, let’s not get too hung up about it and take it on the chin.

It follows that if you apply a monetarist approach to managing the coronavirus it will only be those who are already standing on death’s jaggy precipice who’ll be jettisoned.

The National:

It’s a win-win-win situation: only the fittest and strongest get to survive; you’ve saved yourself a packet on funding extra beds and nurses and future pressure on the NHS is eased considerably.

In contrast to this free-market approach to disease-control, the Chinese and Italians seem to be favouring a somewhat Keynesian strategy: intervene early and go all in. Such an approach is informed by the need to save as many people as possible from dying.

Call me old-fashioned and sentimental but I think this is quite a reasonable approach.

Some of those on the right may beg to disagree. Already, in the British media some old tropes are being hinted at when the British discuss Italy and its old-fashioned ways. It’s such a chaotic and emotional country with a tendency towards over-reaction, you see.

READ MORE: BBC bizarrely interviews Nigel Farage about coronavirus

In the same vicinity as “underlying health problems” another locution is becoming familiar when the latest Italian coronavirus bulletin emerges: “Italy has the oldest population in Europe.” This is followed quickly by the observation that Italy is running out of hospital beds and respiratory equipment.

Well, if a country insists on treating its elderly so irresponsibly well during their lifetimes that they persist in living to a grand old age then what else can it expect?

Perhaps the Italians should deploy a more monetarist outlook in their disease-management choices.

It would certainly reduce the codger factor in their hard-pressed economy, which of course is always chaotic because of all that emotion and unstable temperament in the Italian psyche.

The principle of “taking it on the chin” occurs often in the history of Tory social policy. Margaret Thatcher proclaimed herself an enthusiastic proponent of just such a strategy when she stated that there was no such thing as society. From now on it would be winner takes all and don’t let the door bang on your way out.

The National:

If an entire industry and the communities that it sustained had to disappear then so be it. This is the price you pay if you insist on looking after the weak and the infirm instead of encouraging them to take up their beds and walk. Even Jesus, that legendary Keynesian philosopher and spiritual interventionist, seemed to think so. Similarly, if you make it difficult to access benefits then surely this will force the workshy and the idle to get out of their wheelchairs and seek work.

Modern workplaces are much better equipped to deal with employees who require a drip or who have need for a catheter. Serious illness or long-term instability is not really an acceptable excuse these days.

My esteemed colleague Michael Fry yesterday predicted that capitalism would ultimately defeat the coronavirus. I’ve always been an admirer of Fry’s prose style and that massive brain of his but let’s face it, according to him the Bubonic Plague, the First World War and Scotland 3 England 9 could all have been averted if we’d all just embraced capitalism a bit more.

“Each downturn brings a mass extinction of dinosaur companies unable to survive the economic equivalent of an asteroid hit,” he wrote. “In their place arise nimble new companies. The economy afterwards is more productive than before. In the long run all of us get richer.” This is the economic equivalent of taking it “on the chin” and allowing the disease “to move through the population”.

It was a refreshingly honest appraisal of how capital, like a cockroach, will always survive economic and physical catastrophes.

The only problem with this analysis is that the same communities and the same countries are always made to suffer the consequences. Nimble companies and governments may indeed arise, but their agility rarely extends to helping those neighbourhoods that are the perennial victims of seismic events.

Come the end of the year we will discover if Boris Johnson’s laissez-faire approach to the coronavirus has been successful. He’ll be judged, I suppose, on the number of infections and fatalities. For many communities, though, it won’t really matter. For the next decade or so they will suffer far more casualties than anything wrought by the coronavirus. As ever though, they will be expected simply to take it on the chin.