In the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, Oliver takes an even-handed approach to the new global virus.

By Christian Holub
March 02, 2020 at 12:21 PM EST
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Though the virus known as COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan province of China, cases have been surfacing around the world, including in the United States. In Oliver's words, the possibility of coronavirus coming to America is, like Saoirse Ronan winning an Oscar or Henry Kissinger finally dying, "a question of if, not when." As depicted on cable news, concern over the disease ranges from the high panic of literally gurgling bleach and worrying about Chinese food to MSNBC's Chuck Todd declaring coronavirus' 2 percent death rate a little low.

"Two percent is a lot when you're talking about people dying," Oliver said. "Two percent of people disappearing was literally the premise of The Leftovers. You know, the show whose pilot very much did not consist of Justin Theroux going, 'Well, that was rough but, to be honest, could've been worse,' and then the show ended."

Coronavirus will soon be everyone's problem, as experts expect some 40-70 percent of the world's population to get infected over the next year. In Oliver's words, "there's only one infectious disease that two-thirds of the world should be getting right now — and that's Adam Driver Fever."

The countries that have already been weathering coronavirus outbreaks present different models of how to educate the public about it. China initially cracked down on whistleblowers (such as Dr. Li Wenliang, who went on to die of coronavirus) before pivoting into very strict quarantine; Oliver showed footage of empty Wuhan streets to illustrate the point. Vietnam, by contrast, released a PSA video about the virus and how to guard against it (washing your hands, etc.) and the song is so addictive it's produced TikTok memes. Oliver, for one, can't stop listening to it. "That song slaps!" he exclaimed multiple times.

"How scared should you be? The answer is probably 'a bit,'" Oliver concluded. "A bit! I don't want to be alarmist here, but I also don't want to minimize what we might be facing. It's about trying to strike a sensible balance. Basically, if you're drinking bleach to protect yourself right now, you should probably calm the f--- down. If you are, say, licking subway poles because you're convinced nothing can hurt you, maybe stop that. You want to stay somewhere between those two extremes."

Watch the full video above.

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