Over the last eight-ten weeks I’ve had a lot of differing thoughts on Covid-19, aka the Coronavirus, and as a way of making sense of them, figured I would process them as blog posts – sort of like a public ‘Dear Diary’. I think, in time, it might be interesting (or potentially very boring) to see how my thoughts change as 2020 develops.
First comes acceptance
I think the most interesting thing is that my acceptance of the seriousness of this disease almost mirrors the graphs showing new cases in Australia. My original thoughts were that it would be worse elsewhere, it’s only the flu, yeah, we’ll get it here, but I’m not worried; happy to get it myself as it will build my immunity (how stupid was that initial thinking?!); we won’t suffer too much – we’re an island nation, so we have that natural border which will help us keep it out, yada, yada, yada … Clearly they were the thoughts of someone who had very little understanding of what Covid-19 is about.
Then on the flip side, I would occasionally think that it might be ‘seriously serious’, that it could change the way we live – for a while, if not forever – but whenever I envisioned things like lockdowns etc., I told myself I was being a drama queen, that it would never get that far. And yet it has. Here we are, in the first few days of a lockdown, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.
The psychology of not having to make your own decisions
Curiously, I find the lockdown a relief. It won’t be fun – although I will do my best to make the most of it once I settle into it – but to finally be told what not to do, and what I may do, takes a lot of pressure off me as an individual.
Not so long ago we spent many months facing the thought of losing our home due to the massive bushfires around us, and we anguished during those months about whether to stay or go, should the fires get that close. And if we did decide to go, when we should go, and where … And would we get there in time?
To be told to go into lockdown takes the responsibility away from me of making what could potentially be life or death decisions. I feel a sense of relief early on that I never felt during those months when the fires were creeping towards us.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t
What I also find curious is the hysteria of people wasting so much airspace criticising our leaders on their ‘mixed messages’. I mean, seriously, what do people expect? There is no handbook on this. Our leaders are not trained to handle this. No one really is. Sure, we have a huge, well-trained scientific community around the world which can advise, but until we all started to get a handle on this thing, all they could do was advise on theory – and boy, have there been a lot of theories! (Still are …) Unfortunately, for anyone to obtain useable facts and data, Covid-19 has had to transmit and kill first.
Scomo has been criticised for not going in hard enough at times, but I’ve actually come to realise that there can be a noticeable separation between our federal and state parliaments and the laws each can make. Those extra steps do have to be taken by the states – there are limits to what the feds can do.
I’m a swinging voter – so this is not ‘Liberal love’ happening here – but I’ve been impressed with Gladys Berejiklian’s attitude towards all this. That girl – like Jacinda Ardern – has true cajones! She’s determined to cut off the toe to save the leg – and that’s smart thinking when you eventually won’t have the resources to save the leg.
Funnily enough, despite some of the issues we’ve had to face recently, I do think the last few weeks have been handled reasonably well from a people-management point of view. (Sure, there are massive queues at Centrelink and a lot of people are scared about their finances etc, but in terms of actually getting us into lockdown, I think it’s worked well.) It might be sheer accident, but I think the timing of all this has worked well with our psychology as a whole:
- We have enough Covid-19 cases in the country for people to see that the graph is on the J-curve – it’s starting to look scary to the Ordinary Joe, but it’s still small enough in actual numbers that we can stomp on it, if we do the right thing. So psychologically, the lockdown has come at the right time to ensure that most people would agree that we need to do it. ‘Compliance will save us.’
- We’ve seen what’s happened in Wuhan – which was locked down fairly quickly – and in Italy, which wasn’t. So we can see the difference between action and inaction.
- The lockdown has come in small stages, every few days, giving the bulk of us time to ‘move with it’. There were always those few voices ahead of each stage, calling for more stringent measures, and always those others at the end of the scale saying that each step was too much, but the bulk of the population seemed pretty understanding of each stage as it happened, and so we moved together as a nation, without riots or too much fear.
- Each stage was linked to an event, like the great toilet-paper shortage of 2020, which scared a lot of people but left most of us wondering ‘Why? Why toilet paper?’ We had time to process the thought of empty shelves, to view those terrible videos of people punching each other out over a pack of poop paper, and time for the manufacturers and the supermarkets to amp up production, to bring in changes to trading hours, and to assure us that we would be fine.
- Each stage of the lockdown was forecast in the media – I’m convinced each stage was deliberately leaked so that we would get our heads around it before it happened. If it was, it was a great way to stave off panic. Can you imagine if the lockdown had been announced without warning? If you thought the shelves were empty last week … And those brawls between one or two people over loo paper? They would have been full-scale riots over everything! So the little steps towards it were like herding a bunch of toddlers into a room – little step by little step … and then … we’re there!
Show me the money
I have been surprised at the financial stimulus packages that have been offered. I’m still not sure how it’s all going to help, though. I do worry that it’s only going to stave off the inevitable.
As a small business owner who sells a discretionary product, I’ve seen sales dry up over the last four weeks and have had to stand down my two casuals, which was awful (for all of us).
And while it seems that there’s money flying everywhere, not everyone who needs help is going to get it. A partnered mother losing her job may not receive any help if her employed partner is above a certain threshold. How will they afford the basics over the coming months if the partner’s wage paid the mortgage or the rent? There’s a limit to how much they can expect from their landlord or bank.
I believe my business will get a handout, but without sales I will be preserving what I can to cover bills so that I can go back into business in the hope that this is over within a few months. And I’m not sure that’s what the government wants – they want me to spend that money. But if I have no work coming in …
No such thing as a free lunch
And I wonder at the payback. I know there’s a theory that governments just ‘print more money’ but it’s not quite that simple. And a lot of economic damage will be done before this is over – I’m not sure how quickly we’re going to be able to recover from that damage. I also wonder if we won’t be paying for it in higher taxes in the years to come – and in essence, I don’t have a problem with that. Borrow it now, get through the mess, pay it back later.
My other thought is that there will be fraud – and there will also be ‘accidental’ fraud by business owners who receive handouts but don’t apply them the way the government intended, and so what will happen to them? Will they have to pay back anything they’ve received? There are shit storms on the horizon there!
In your dreams
The dream – in my head – would be that by the end of June, or perhaps July at the worst, we haven’t had any new cases for several weeks and the lockdown starts to lift, bit by bit. And as no new cases develop, that by the end of September we’re back to 80% of normal economic production, and nearing 100% by the end of the year. Sadly, I’m sure that there will be deep-seated damage in many areas where some businesses can’t be brought back to life and the flow-on effects of that will scar communities and families here and there.
But one thing’s for certain, over the next fifty years and more, Covid-19 will spawn a thousand novels (wanna write and publish yours while you’re under lockdown? Visit https://indiemosh.com.au #shamelessselfpromotion 😉 ) , and probably a thousand times as many research papers around the world – and not just medical. This baby will be studied by economists, psychologists, sociologists, educators – you-name-it. In fact, for a while it will probably spawn a few new industries, too.
Speaking of novels – and novel viruses
One of the interesting things that someone ‘discovered’ was the idea that Dean Koontz had predicted this in his novel The Eyes of Darkness. He didn’t predict it as such – but there are some interesting parallels between his storyline and what’s actually happened.
But what’s more interesting to me is that this correlation seems to have been made before anyone mentioned Stephen King’s The Stand. I mean, if this isn’t Captain Trips’ distant cousin playing around with us … Mind you, The Stand was set several decades ago and I’m grateful for the fact that we have the internet now. Imagine trying to get a whole country into lockdown without the immediacy of the internet? Again, The Stand. Actually – don’t. Now is not the time to read that book! Even if you’re going to actually have the time. 😉
So, Dear Diary, these are my random thoughts for today, Friday, 27 March 2020. I’ll see you again when I next need to empty my swirling little brain.
Opinionated blogging. It’s at the top of the page.