IN the autumn of 2019 I was convinced that by now I would be dead. The prognosis of my lung cancer was very bleak after a CT scan indicated the disease was present in many parts of my body. A more detailed PET scan subsequently delivered a little more optimism – that a single tumour was confined to the inside of the left lung and surgery was an option.

The road travelled since that lung was removed in November has been a very bumpy one with several emergency interventions and blue-light ambulances thrown into the very scary mix.

Nonetheless it is testament to the progress in cancer treatments these days that I am writing this column today and that, apart from the side effects of chemotherapy and a cocktail of various powerful prescribed drugs, I’m doing okay for now.

But this remains a terminal condition and as such it sharpens the mind to the sensitivities of mortality. I imagine my enforced shielding for the past four months has created so much extra thinking time that I would otherwise not have had.

This week I have thought a lot about the difference between Scotland, England and Australia and my conclusion is an uncomfortable one.

Here we are in our UK bubble regarding our position in handling coronavirus north of the border considerably better than down south. Our population is roughly one tenth of England’s where more than 44,000 people have died from the virus but we have less than 2,500 deaths instead of the statistically comparable 4,400.

People are still dying and new infections continue – on one day alone this week 352 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the UK. This number on the day we heard more about significant easing of restrictions and a loosening on foreign travel.

Yet in Australia – where 25 million people live and 106 people have died – they have reacted to a spike of infections in the State of Victoria (with a population the same as Scotland) with a full-scale emergency lock-down.

The difference, it seems, is that life is regarded as more precious in Australia than it appears to be in the UK where we have roughly the same percentage of infections but instead of locking down we are easing up.

Despite calls from relatives to recognise each number as a beloved individual we have become inured to daily death and infection updates.

It seems that while there are calls for an inquiry into the apparent “sacrifice” of the elderly in care homes, to protect PPE resources and keep NHS hospital beds free, the UK's four nations have moved on to concentrate on other pressing issues such as opening pubs and cinemas and shops.

Meanwhile more stories are appearing on social media and elsewhere about the comparatively low risks of catching and dying from Covid-19 compared to dying from a heart attack or a cancer or dementia. It’s as if the air-brush treatment is being applied here while in Australia the government and the population are taking the threat to loss of life far more seriously.

Maybe I am over-thinking things – but I can’t help wonder if the true measure of a society is the value we place on life itself.

Ally McLaws is managing director of the McLaws Consultancy, specialist in business marketing and reputation management. See

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