Just when you thought it was safe to go out for a socially distanced walk without getting nicked for stopping to tie your shoelace…
Oh Lord. We haven’t caught sight of Boris’s A-Z Atlas of how to get the hell out of lockdown yet and already ‘experts’ are predicting yet more corona carnage.
This time, instead of evil, blood-sucking bats, it’s the humble hedgehog that’s got it in for us, according to researchers at the University of Liverpool, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase spike protein.
Come to think of it, Mrs Tiggy-winkle does look a bit like one of those dastardly virus graphics that accompany all the news stories on TV, so I can see where the Scouseologists got their inspiration from.
But it's not just huffy hogs. Other common or garden animals are getting a bit sniffy with us, too.
The eggheads at Liverpool used 'machine learning', whatever that is, to predict associations between 411 strains of coronavirus and 876 potential mammal host species, with their model integrating “characteristics extracted from garden gnomes”, apparently. Or should that be genomes? I dunno. My shorthand’s not so hot these days.
Anyway, as well as the common hedgehog (or Erinaceus europaeus, as the bods call them), the results have “implicated” the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) as a predicted host for new coronaviruses, and even the domestic cat (Felis catus), according to a common professor (Dickus headus).
And that’s to say nothing of the poor old pangolin, or the masked palm civet, which presumably used to be a normal, run-of-the-mill palm civet minding his own business until Covid-19 rules dictated he had to wear a mask.
You see? You think it’s nearly all over? Well think again. These scientists have got their claws well and truly into us, and they just don't want to let go. Not until we’re all furloughed for life and living in nuclear bunkers while they spend all day conducting research into how to protect ourselves from the dark.
Well I’ll tell you. We’d be living in a world full of hordes of ‘influencers’ pouting at their smartphones and plucking their eyebrows while queueing outside their local food banks. And that’s not a good look.
You’d think all these PhD geeks would be more concerned with planning a trip down the pub - when it opens - to celebrate their extraordinary achievements with the vaccine rollout. And to laugh at Ursula von der Leyen, obviously. But oh no.
Instead, having tasted blood, they seem to be craving the apocalypse, warning us how new coronaviruses can emerge when two different strains co-infect an animal, bla bla bla, causing viral genetic material to recombine, bla bla. And how, despite the mass rollout of vaccines, the recombination of other coronaviruses with SARS-CoV-2 is the “immediate threat to public health”.
And when they're not going all Nostradamus on us, they’re competing with each other as to who can find the best new mutant strain.
So far we’ve had the Brazilian strain, the South African strain, the Nigerian strain and - let's not forget - the Kent strain. Which I still find hard to take seriously compared to the others.
Personally I can’t wait for the Llanyllanllan strain to take hold round these parts. Where people start bleating instead of coughing, and mysteriously lose their sense of humour.