One of my finest moments this school year was being nominated to run for head girl. I narrowly lost the election but I won a place on the Senior Prefect team, which is a pretty great position to gain, as well as being chosen to be a head of house.
My first duty was and continuing duty is to register one of the Lower School forms. I have been blessed with a wonderful year 7 class, who make me use a lot of energy first thing every Thursday morning. After registering them, I usually play games like 'Heads Down Thumbs Up' and 'Hangman'. Walking to their form room was a cautious task, while it looked like the corridors were clear to me, I had forgotten that year 7's are only about four feet tall and have tendencies to dart out of nowhere and run straight into you, especially in the dinner queue. However this particular morning, there was hysteria in corridors. I walked into the classroom to see a large group of year 7s huddled together. I sat gingerly in the teachers chair, and was soon surrounded by them. They all silently eyed me like the calm before a storm.
'DO YOU HAVE SWINE FLU?' A bold, blonde haired girl asked, before the whole class broke into pandemonium. Some started screaming and crying. That week, Alleyn's School had been closed due to swine flu. Many of the girls had brothers and sisters who had attended Alleyn's and they were worried. But I didn't.
'No,' I answered tentatively. The same question and the same answer went back and forth, again and again. By the third time, I burst out laughing and demanded an explanation from Little Miss Bold Blondie on why I was being given the spanish inquisition. I had been romantically linked via Facebook to one of the 6th form boys at Alleyn's who had recently come back from Mexico. I rolled my eyes. They were worse gossips than the 6th form.
Later on that day, the nurse sent home 40 year 7's with suspected swine flu symptoms. Talk about hyperchondriacs. This was back in April. Two months later, when there was confirmed case in our school, there was chaos. Absolute and utter chaos.
This panic has not left the hearts of the public yet, be it a year 7 pupil, a pregnant mother, or a banker reading his paper on the tube in the morning. Every morning, we must read the paper and be told to confront our fate. The media particularly enjoys bombarding us with the constant reminder that we are all going to die in the midst of this 'Farmageddon': Swine Flu, Bird Flu, Mad Cow Disease (I do realise this was a disease from the 90s). (Actually upon reflection, it makes you wonder how these diseases get these names!).
But some of the statistics are fuelling the frenzy (we do have to be prepared for the worst, in case it all goes pear shaped). I'm particularly talking about the speculated effects on the economy. Swine flu couldn't have come at a more worse time.
The NHS are predicting up to 65,000 deaths this winter and the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Lim Donaldson has added that up to 30% of the population could show symptoms. Currently the UK Death Toll is currently around 30. Someone please enlighten me how this is plausible?
The Oxford economists are slightly more realistic than our health care analysts but it is still alarming. The UK gross domestic product (GDP: a basic figure of the UK's economic performance) could drop by 5%, our economy could head towards deflation (this doesn't sound too bad in theory, it means that the value of money will increase but most economists agree that it could lead to a downward spiral. It is a slippery slope to reduced economic activity). Finally to put the king in the cake, our economy, already in need of a quick bounce back, return to form could be delayed by 2 years. It means that we could have to sit tight for a bit longer riding out an extended recession, trying to battle throught the underlying problems, clutching our tissues and blowing our noses.
Other estimates from the Ernst & Young Item Club, who are working closely with Sir Lim Donaldson are predicting up to a 7.5% decrease in the UK GDP, this is based on 100,000 cases of swine flu and 50% of the UK showing symptoms. Our economy could reach a slump that hasn't been seen since 1921. The Item Club say that, "With the Western world still teetering on the brink of deflation, it is not an exaggeration to say that a pandemic on this scale could tip it over the edge." It COULD happen, however what most of this hype is helpfully revealing, is that there is a real underlying threat to our economy.
Swine flu, more interestingly, will certainly affect our behaviour towards money. There will be heightened uncertainty about economic developments (whole companies could collapse completely due to swine flu) which is likely to make businesses postpone investment. Increased uncertainty would also have a negative impact on financial markets, bringing lower share prices and higher market interest rates than warranted by the economic situation. Spending will take a nose dive, as many people will not go near anywhere which is harbouring swine flu (ie. restaurants, cinemas and retailers.)
However, some retailers are now recording profits such as Next. (I do wonder how Next ever made a profit!) Stockpiling tins of beans and jumpers to serve an army against a nuclear bomb, or just to ride out the swine flu, is certainly appealing for most of the public. Let us not forget, Procter & Gamble, (who sell the essentials; helping us stockpile Pampers, Vicks and toothbrushes) and therefore will always make a profit, and GlaxoSmithKline and other such pharmaceutical companies who produce medicines undoubtedly will have no trouble breaking even. GSK currently have a swine flu vaccine in the pipeline, and were heavily criticised this week for wanting to charge £6 for a vaccine which allegedly costs £1 to produce.
Swine flu has made us all a little paranoid. I'm now afraid to cough, sneeze or breathe too hard in public in case I am mobbed by year 7s or given a hard stare by an old lady. I think they've accepted that it is not the steady sound progress but sound of our economy taking a nose dive into Farmageddon.
Currently Listening to: All Them Witches - Plugs, Fastlove - George Michael