THE fundamentals of our society are being shaken to the core by what we can see coronavirus for what it is: a monster.

The unseen malevolent force is tightening its grip; the number of cases across Britain is rising exponentially as the curve of infection begins to shoot up.

Last night, the figures of confirmed cases were 3,269 and deaths 144. Last week, they were a fraction of that number. And if the scientists are right, then they are going to get much higher as we travel into the unknown of April and May.

One of the starkest comments in a week of stark comments came from Sir Patrick Valance, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, who told MPs keeping the total death rate down to 20,000 or below would be a “good outcome”; he accepted such a figure was “horrible”.

The prospect of spring never seemed so frightening.

Travelling into London has been a truly eerie experience; like a scene from a dystopian science fiction movie.

Train platforms and Tube stations, normally bustling with people, are virtually empty.

On the trains, it is noticeable how people, several of whom are wearing face masks, are sitting well apart. Should someone cough, eyes widen and fellow passengers shuffle uncomfortably or walk further down the carriage.

In normal times, pacing the people-free streets of the UK capital would be a rare treat but, in the circumstances, it is a deeply uncomfortable experience.

Westminster has over the last few days gradually emptied itself of people.

PMQs, the bear-pit of politics, was not as we know it; more collegiate, albeit for some grudgingly so. It was noticeable how, on the Conservative benches at least, MPs, on the whips’ advice, were sitting a healthy few seats apart. Social-distancing does not come naturally to parliamentarians.

Indeed, as the Government urged those over-70 to stay at home peers took the message lead by Norman Fowler, the Lord Speaker himself, a sprightly 82-year-old, and went home.

And while it was clear many people were heeding the Government’s medical advice to self-isolate – me included - groups of people were still congregating outside pubs and cafés, cheerily talking to each other as if nothing had happened. Not defiant, just irresponsible and stupid.

As the Government’s response has accelerated with ever more draconian measures like the closure of schools, it seems only a matter of time before London is in lockdown and the Government uses new emergency powers to force-close premises.

As we all grapple with the grim reality of what the next two months could bring, it became inevitable normal life and normal politics would have to be put on hold.

So, it came as no surprise Nicola Sturgeon announced her Government’s desire to see an independence referendum this year would be abandoned in the face of the coronavirus monster. Reading between the lines, her colleague Ian Blackford said as much to me last week.

Indeed, it seems to many just as unrealistic for Boris Johnson to cling onto the hope a trade deal with the EU can somehow be sorted out – virtually – by the end of June; when the PM and his colleagues are due to take stock. To many, if not the diehard Brexiteers, extending the transition period by, say, six months, would simply make sense.

Gordon Brown, the former PM who “saved the world” in 2008 by leading an international alliance to keep the global economy alive, resurfaced yesterday to insist the Government had to show “overwhelming resolve” in slaying the Covid-19 monster and called for immediate measures to help people keep their jobs.

Today, Rishi Sunak, the highly-polished Chancellor, will set out what has already been dubbed a “people’s bail-out”.

At his regular press conference Mr Johnson foreshadowed his colleague’s intervention by making clear, unlike the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash when Britain bailed out the banks, “this time is going to be different” and the Government will “look after the people first”.

Underlying the throwing-the-kitchen-sink approach, the Bank of England waded in to cut interest rates to their lowest ever level of 0.1 per cent, which over time will mean all those borrowing plans of the Chancellor to fund the infrastructure investment will cost the country more billions of pounds.

And yet amid all the gloom, there were two glimmers of hope. One was provided by China, which saw no local infections in the last 24 hours and one from the PM himself.

Flanked by the now familiar boffins of Chris Whitty and Patrick Valance, he boasted that Britain could “send coronavirus packing” and by 12 weeks could be turning the tide.

Mr Johnson argued that with a combination of increased testing – achieving 250,000 tests a day at some point - Government measures and people doing the right thing by staying at home and keeping their distance, the viral sombrero could be squashed and the downward slide of the virus could be seen by mid-June.

Using a typically idiosyncratic turn of phrase, Mr Johnson suggested he was not being “unnecessarily boosterish”. Let’s hope the blonde Beatle is right.