Coronavirus: Yes Minister scene predicted Boris Johnson’s reaction to pandemic

Hilarious scene from sitcom bears worrying similarities to real life

Jacob Stolworthy
Thursday 12 March 2020 12:08 GMT
Yes Minister predicted Boris Johnson's response to coronavirus

A scene from British sitcom Yes Minister has gone viral for predicting Boris Johnson’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 1980s series, a satirical show written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, follows a politician – played by Paul Eddington – whose clueless party suddenly takes control of government.

This particular episode sees two civil servants – played by Donald Pickering and Nigel Hawthorne – discussing how they go about advising the Prime Minister when political problems arise.

One suggests the “Standard Foreign Office” response, which many Twitter users have noticed bears alarming similarities to the one seemingly being deployed by Johnson’s party in the wake of coronavirus.

This response is split into four stages:

Sir Richard Wharton: “In stage one, we say nothing is going to happen.”

Sir Humphrey Appleby: “Stage two, we say something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it.”

Sir Richard Wharton: “In stage three, we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there’s nothing we can do.”

Sir Humphrey Appleby: “Stage four, we say maybe there was something we could have done, but it’s too late now.”

“Coronavirus response plan summarised,” read the tweet that sent the clip viral.

Britain has been shown to have tested fewer people for the disease in recent days, causing the UK government to face accusations of complacency and failing to “follow science” in a sluggish response to the pandemic.

Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, have tested positive for coronavirus, which has led to the shutdown of the Elvis Presley biopic the actor was working on in Australia.

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For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organisation, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Find a full list of everything that’s been cancelled or postponed in the wake of the outbreak here.

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