Coronavirus might just be the making of us: 9 things to be cheerful about

If you have, of late, woken up in the wee hours in a cold sweat of fear for your loved ones, you're not alone.

The anxiety caused by a global pandemic, scientists who can't agree what to do about it, and a rampant Piers Morgan is bad enough. But throw in waking up in a cold sweat and wondering if it is the first symptom of being at the mercy of all 3, and you'll really get the willies.

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There is nothing that helps as well, at that time of night, as writing a list. It calms the mind, delivers a sense of purpose, and provides an exit route for your whirling thoughts.

And amid the horror and tragedy, the fears for beloved baby boomers who think a mystery virus in their ACTUAL FACE is nothing compared to the Cuban Missile Crisis that happened in CUBA, there are also reasons to be cheerful.

1. We can all agree to stop eating pangolins

Exotic meat was a status symbol in China before Christmas, and now it's anathema. Wet markets around the world – and there are millions – will be cleaner. The pangolins will probably be happier, as well.

2. We are more hygienic

At a guess, 90% of the viruses I've contracted in adult life were delivered via public transport. Now, I'm not touching handrails, escalators, handles, lift buttons, or signing the postman's electronic device. People who rarely bother washing their hands after the loo are now making the effort, and fewer bogies are being wiped under desks, in offices and in schools.

3. Beards

Men: you finally have the time to grow yours. Women: you finally have the time to remove yours.

4. Home is where the heart is

We spend all our lives working to pay for a home we spend a minority of our time in. If asked, or deciding, to self-isolate, you will finally get the chance to enjoy it.

Gardeners will weed. Linen will be washed. Mountains of ironing will be conquered, and windows painted. Dusting is very likely, and polishing might even be perpetrated.

5. Bye bye, air pollution

People aren't driving and planes are grounded. The air hasn't been this clean since before the Industrial Revolution, and road accidents will be down too.

All right, delivery drivers are working like never before, but on the upside you will at least be home to receive your parcel, for once.

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6. Consistent and determined support for local businesses

No need to stockpile when there's a shop at the end of your road that you've taken for granted up til now.

7. A new respect for Italians

If pizza didn't impress you enough, the fact that everyone in Italy not only has a musical instrument but can play it in harmony with their neighbours should surely induce joy. Opera singers, DJs and music teachers have given impromptu performances. In one video, 3 people in separate apartment blocks all dug out a harmonium from the back of a cupboard. A harmonium! I couldn't find one with a map.

Oh, and they also organised a national clapalong to thank the country's doctors and nurses. All of humanity gives you a fistbump, Italy.

8. We've got this

This is the first plague for which we mapped the genome within days of its discovery. Totalitarian China shared its knowledge within days. This is the first time ever a vaccine was worked on, simultaneously, worldwide, by an army of scientists who are confident of cracking it within a year or so.

Nobody wants to drown on dry land, their lungs full of fluid while their organs fail one at a time, because of a virus nobody as yet fully understands. But before, when such things happened, it was just another death. Today, it is epidemiology and a step towards a cure. Those deaths will all be counted.

If the virus ever slept, it would be having nightmares about us.

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9. A better way of doing things

Every previous pandemic has produced important change. The Black Death led to the surviving peasants being paid better. The 1918 Spanish 'flu cemented germ theory into public consciousness, and the failure of organised religion caused many to switch their faith to science. More recently, SARS and MERS gave us experience of how to prepare.

Today, baby boomers whose world has only ever improved are learning it is vulnerable. The sandwich generation is taking more care of elders who always seemed immortal, and children are asking grown-ups to clean up after themselves. We are all having conversations about our love for each other, avoiding the worst, and end-of-life plans.

We are aware, as never before, how fragile the 21st century is. How vital our medical knowledge, how long the supply chains for a toilet roll. We are learning the benefits of freedom of movement – sorry, Priti – and international communication. There is, in extremis, a global family that all too often we forget shares our hopes and fears.

There are idiots, of course. There are billionaires waving begging bowls, people trying to shut down schools that are, at present, safe and keeping what's left of the economy going. There'll probably be parents organising playdates in quarantine.

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But, worldwide, right-wing, billionaire-pleasing populists are having to consider nationalising vital services. Socialised healthcare, and whether America wants it, may sway the US general election later this year. And nothing will move us nearer to a universal basic income like temporary redundancy, mortgage holidays and a banking crisis.

Whether you agree with those things or not is neither here nor there: the fact is, selfishness is about to become socially unacceptable in a way it hasn't been since the Second World War.

The alternative is generosity, thought, kindness. Altruism is blooming. If you ever doubted the value of the human race – and who hasn't? – then Covid-19 could yet be the making of us.

At the very least, it's playing hell with Boris Johnson's ego.

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