IT’S 2020. When I was kid, we thought that in 2020 there would be flying cars, bases on the Moon, and free energy for all. Instead, here we are trying to teach folk the importance of washing their hands and telling them not to panic buy toilet paper. Our predictions suck.

Just last year, 2020 was heralded as the year that would change everything in Scotland, mostly by gloating British nationalists rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of a certain trial. All of Scotland’s political certainties would be turned upside down, and out of the rubble would emerge a UK with a much stronger grasp upon a Scotland which had magically reconciled itself to Brexit, Boris Johnson, and the possibility of a decade of Conservative rule.

They were right about all our certainties being turned upside down, but the loss in credibility that they were so confidently predicting has turned out to be the tattered remnants of trust left in the British Government turning to ash.

The British Government has not been handling the coronavirus epidemic well. Its actions have neither inspired public confidence, nor bolstered its own reputation for competence. This is a serious problem for a Government which is led by a man who already has a reputation for hiding in a fridge during a crisis and for a bumbling, mumbling refusal to grasp the details. But even worse than that, this new crisis has created a widespread perception that the British Government is quite prepared to preside over the deaths of thousands of people, leading to the hashtag #BorisTheButcher trending across social media.

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When there’s a perception that the Government is quite sanguine about the possibility of your death, that’s a Government which can no longer hope to provide effective leadership.

Of course, it’s not actually true that Boris Johnson’s Conservative Government is deliberately seeking to kill off significant segments of the UK population, even if Jacob Rees-Mogg does bear an unsettling resemblance to the figure of Death from one of those depressing Ingmar Bergman movies.

However, at the moment this Government’s idea of public reassurance would be for the Home Secretary Priti Patel to draw up plans to deny Death a work permit on account of Swedish migrants no longer enjoying freedom of movement.

The problem is that a government can either seek to protect the economy, or it can seek to protect the populace, and many people are convinced that Boris Johnson’s Government has decided to prioritise the former. This perception is boosted by the singular fact that the UK has adopted a strategy for dealing with the virus that no other nation has. Moreover, the UK’s strategy has been widely questioned or condemned by experts and professional bodies that have expertise in relevant fields. On Saturday, the British Society for Immunology (BSI) published an open letter to the British Government, raising some important questions about the UK’s strategy for dealing with the epidemic.

It pointed out that herd immunity only works when steps are taken to protect those groups at highest risk from infection, for example, through social distancing. If this doesn’t happen, the BSI warns, the consequences could be severe. Furthermore, the BSI notes that we don’t actually know whether it’s possible to induce long-term immunity to this virus. Crucially, this is not possible in other viruses in the same family as Covid-19.

A virus such as the measles virus invades cells within the body. It hijacks the cell in order to force it to produce thousands of copies of the virus, which then break out and infect other cells in the body. When someone falls ill with an infection, the body’s immune system is prompted to create antibodies which attack and destroy the infective agent.

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Even after the illness has passed, the body remains primed to recognise this infective agent and will rapidly deploy its arsenal of antibodies should the individual ever be infected again. This is how long-term immunity against illnesses such as the measles works. If you have been infected once, your body retains the ability to deploy antibodies against infection with the measles virus for the rest of your life.

However, there is reason to suspect that this may not be exactly the case with coronavirus. Coronavirus is a family of what are called RNA templated viruses. Without getting into too much technical detail, these viruses and other RNA templated viruses lack the ability to “proof read”.

Normally, when any strand of genetic material is copied within an organism, there are checks in place in the form of enzymes to ensure that the copying is accurate. These checks are lacking in the coronavirus.

When a coronavirus hijacks a cell in the body in order to replicate itself, it is highly prone to making copying errors, and some versions of the virus are produced which have a slightly different genetic structure.

This means that these viruses tend to mutate quickly, making it far more likely that a variant strain will arise – which someone who has already had the illness will not have any immunity to. Your body will only have the ability to deploy antibodies against the precise strain which has previously infected you, not against any new strain which might arise.

This is the great unknown in the British Government’s strategy for dealing with this outbreak. It potentially puts the lives and health of millions of people at risk, all in the hope that it is possible to build up long-term immunity. Yet more research is required in order to determine whether this is even possible.

A far more sensible and cautious strategy would be to ensure that vulnerable groups are protected in order to reduce their exposure to the virus and delay the spread of the virus in the short term.

The BSI calls on the Government to do more to ensure social distancing takes place to slow down the virus and buy time in order to develop a vaccine. In other countries, more extreme social distancing measures seem to have had some success in suppressing rates of infection.

READ MORE: WATCH: Scottish health official makes Piers Morgan look very stupid

We hear calls from the airline industry for billions in cash. Perhaps Richard Branson might consider selling his private island and we could instead use the money in order to ensure that the elderly, the homeless, and those who cannot financially self-isolate are able to feed themselves and keep themselves warm during the crisis.

Instead, what we are seeing from this Government is a Conservative Party which will allow the burden of this crisis to be born by those who are least able to afford it.

That will be Boris Johnson’s undoing and the undoing of the frayed bonds tying the UK together. That’s one prediction that’s a safe bet.