REMEMBER when it seemed like a laugh to have C-list celebrities as world leaders, instead of statesmen or stateswomen? No, me neither. It always seemed like a terrible idea. But here we are, facing an unprecedented global crisis that requires international co-operation, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee are making the big decisions on matters of life and death.

I’m not a doctor, virologist, immunologist or expert in public health. I don’t believe my B in Higher Biology from 20 years ago qualifies me to fill this column with pronouncements on what measures every country in the world should be taking to contain and delay the spread of the coronavirus.

I’ll spare you my ill-informed “hot take” on whether schools should close or medium-sized gatherings should proceed.

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But it doesn’t take an expert to see that public statements by Donald Trump and Boris Johnson since the beginning of the crisis have been less about science and statistics and more about personalities and politics. It’s clear these two men have prioritised promoting their own “strong man” images over-using their positions to hammer home vitally important public health information.

The challenge was to show leadership and responsibility without sparking panic or confusion; to protect their most vulnerable while minimising damage to the economy. Instead, what we’ve heard is a mixture of unscientific waffling and defiant boasting.

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Despite one of them being 73 years old and the other having a pregnant partner at home, neither Trump nor Johnson has led by example. Trump has carried on attending huge events, ironically including his “Make America Great Again” rallies, and kept shaking hands. According to politics website Politico his staff squirted hand sanitiser on VIP donors attending a meet-and-greet at his Mar-a-Lago resort, but as recently as Saturday he said, “I’m not concerned at all,” about Covid-19 cases being confirmed in Washington DC, adding that he would carry on holding “tremendous rallies”.

Johnson has been even more blasé about hand-shaking, stating last week that during a visit to a hospital where there were “actually a few coronavirus patients” (actually it transpired there were none), he “shook hands with everybody, you’ll be pleased to know”.

Who the hell did he imagine would be pleased to know this? Carrie Symonds? His Cabinet? The elderly folk who have been tricked into voting Tory all these years, only to find the Prime Minister doesn’t seem too fussed if they die? Surely

no-one is actually “pleased to know” that the buffoon from Have I Got News For You is the one tasked with making the key decisions that will influence whether or not their loved ones contract a potentially deadly virus – not even the people who voted for him. Even after he was persuaded to change his behaviour, Johnson refused to acknowledge any personal vulnerability, insisting the “good reason” for cutting out handshakes was that “behavioural psychologists say that if you don’t shake somebody’s hand that sends an important message to them about the importance of washing your hands.”

Perhaps Trump’s new EU-US travel ban is also an altruistic measure intended to encourage us (sorry, not us – our EU neighbours) on the hand-washing front. After all, he’s made clear he’s not concerned about Covid-19 spreading in the United States, and last week said he had a “hunch” the mortality rate was “way under 1%” despite World Health Organisation providing a figure of 3.4%. Americans will surely be confused by this mismatch between dismissive talk and draconian action.

The economic impact of a 30-day ban, stopping European tourists from visiting everywhere from Disneyland to the Grand Canyon, will be significant – assuming it actually works as intended.

“Trump address sparks chaos as coronavirus crisis deepens” was CNN’s headline after the president’s surprise announcement on Wednesday night, in which the he said that “anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing”, excluding the UK (and, it was later clarified, Ireland and other countries that are not members of the Schengen border-free travel area). Apparently having confused “things” and “people”, he subsequently tweeted that “trade will in no way be affected” – a rather important clarification.

At least yesterday Johnson seemed to manage to stick to his new script, but he still um-ed and err-ed his way through his answers to questions from journalists, despite being flanked by the UK Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and its chief medical adviser Professor Chris Whitty.

Fortunately “government figures” were on hand to deflect attention from the Prime Minister’s poor performance to date by accusing Nicola Sturgeon of “playing populist politics with a global crisis”.

Her crime? Announcing before the PM’s press conference what measures the Scottish Government would be taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Would these figures have preferred her to reply “wait and see” to every question on this topic during First Minister’s Questions? Of course not – then they’d have had no excuse to get in a froth.

From now on we’re going to need cool heads and co-operation, not nonsense, bluster and bravado. Is that really too much to ask?