On Friday it was 980. Nine hundred & eighty souls.
On Saturday, it was 917. Nine hundred & seventeen souls.
Those are the numbers of people who have died from coronavirus in just two days. Just in this country. Actually, those are the numbers of people who died in hospital. The totals don’t include those who died at home, or in a care home, or anywhere else. The reality – the final toll – will undoubtedly be significantly higher.
It is an unimaginable horror story, playing out in real time all around us. The overwhelming loss of life. The sheer unbearable scale of it all. The inevitability that thousands more will die.
At Hillsborough, 96 precious lives were lost. On 7/7, 52 precious lives were lost. At Lockerbie, 270 precious lives were lost. When the Marchioness went down, 51 precious lives were lost. When the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized, 193 precious lives were lost. Five human catastrophes that happened in my lifetime, each of them seared into the national consciousness. I remember them all. Taken together, a total of 662 precious lives were lost as a consequence of five events that no-one in my generation is ever likely to forget.
Not even close to the number we lost to the virus just yesterday.
And I feel horrified. Bewildered. Angry. Frequently struggling to find the right words. Because, behind each number, there is a name. Behind each name there is a family. Behind each family there is a story. And none of those stories has a happy ending.
I feel horrified.
All of it is horrifying. This isn’t about politics or blame, it’s about humanity. It is the simple human cost that horrifies most of all.
And yet, even with all of that said – somehow, in spite of everything – there is still hope to be found.
We’re not out of this yet. Not by a long way.
But I haven’t lost my hope.