The former Tory MP and Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe has been criticised after she tried to downplay fears of coronavirus by 'comparing' it to the AIDS epidemic, something which she has since denied.
In a column for the Daily Express, which has since been removed, the 72-year-old politician told readers that she believed that the effort to prevent the spread of the virus was being taken too far and was leading to an overreaction by the public.
Widdecombe stated that the panic being caused was due to health officials believing that the disease would not be as 'devastating as feared' much like other outbreaks including AIDS, SARS, bird flu and Ebola.
I’m all for sensible precautions but I cannot help feeling that we are going mad over coronavirus. We have had the scare of SARs, bird flu, Ebola and of course AIDS. None proved as devastating as feared.
We need a sense of proportion in the face of the financial markets going into meltdown, aeroplanes being grounded and shops shutting their doors. It is nasty but, given the recovery rate, it is not the Black Death.
While Widdecombe may have been trying to ease fears she probably should have done some research before making this statement.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is still ongoing, has claimed around 35 million lives since its outbreak in the 1980s, greatly affecting the LGBTQ+ community during that decade. Today, 37 million people still live with the disease, which is roughly the equivalent of the population of Canada.
Widdecombe has since been subject to a backlash because of her comments, with many sharing facts and personal stories about the AIDS epidemic.
Speaking to Indy100 Widdecombe said:
[My article] was published ten days ago and did not say “ Coronavirus will not prove as deadly as feared”. Go and read it properly.
Nor did it compare Coronavirus with AIDS but compared our reactions to them. Those of us who were politicians in the latter part of the 80s well remember that AIDS was predicted to over-run the NHS and other Western health services because there was a prevalent but erroneous assumption that those who contracted HIV would mainly go on to develop full blown AIDS. Thus the crisis did not turn out to be as great as feared.
Those who want to distort an argument or air a grievance will always find a means of doing so but as your paper calls itself Independent, how about some independent analysis of quiet statements?
At the time of writing, there have been over 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world and more than 5,000 deaths.