Day 1

Day 1 of the lockdown. First impressions: it’s quiet. Now I know that may sound blindingly obvious, but it’s startling just how quiet it is. Other people have said that it’s magical to be able to hear the birds singing, but all I’ve heard is pool pumps, a lawnmower and some screaming kids.

We’ve had about ten cars go past our place this morning. I have no idea if they are out and about legally or not. One guy just went past in a Qashqai with all the windows down. He was wearing a mask and gloves and was reading a book propped up against his steering wheel while driving.
I’m pretty sure that’s still illegal.

To be honest, nothing has really changed from any other day that we might have voluntarily spent at home. I guess the change comes when I would have walked out of the front gate and gone for a run, or taken the beagle out (not in an assassination kind of way) or wandered down to Pick n Pay for some milk.

Social media remains really anti-social, with more people than ever finding crap to support whichever political, racial or moral narrative they’ve chosen to follow. I dip in for the latest news and then dip out again very quickly. Sadly, given the fluidity of the situation and my thirst for information, it’s something I feel that I have to do fairly frequently.

I need to find a way to only get the news and avoid the rest of the nonsense.

Finally for today, I have a plan to try to take a photograph each day while we’re all stuck inside (or inside our property, at least). Some will be snapshots, some will be more technical – when I’m not busy with other jobs and I can find the inspiration.  I’m going to put them into an album on Flickr, but I haven’t made it yet. Check back tomorrow for the link and to see what disappointing image I’ve rushed through this evening.

I sure know how to sell an idea, don’t I?

Keep well, stay home, wash your hands.

Fake

There’s only one thing spreading faster than this damn virus: it’s fake news about this damn virus.

If I have to hear that WhatsApp voice note about the “translation from the Spanish doctor, who is a friend of a someone who was chatting to an uncle’s neighbour’s colleague’s best mate at the pub”, then I will scream my sore throat out.

Is it not enough that you were forwarded it from the tannie whose last involvement with the community security group was expressing concern that someone had marked her house for burglary by placing a Monster Energy Drink can across the road? Were alarm bells not ringing when the message arrived with the caption:

Not sure if this is true, but it seems like good advice.

Please. Just think.

The same with twitter. Check your sources, people. Even if it’s someone well-known who you might trust on economic or business matters, they really don’t know better than the Government’s health advisers. And so they shouldn’t be sharing their opinion on this as if they know what they are talking about.
(Even funnier is when they tweet about not sharing unverified news and opinions less than 24 hours later…)

Celebrities: same. Well done on some great acting in that film, now please explain to me why you feel that gives you more knowledge about epidemiology?

Of course, just occasionally, the layperson does get it right. This NYT Opinion piece is succinct and full of good ideas a good idea:

On point.

So, in summary: Stop panic buying, stop sharing fake news, stop believing celebrities.

Stay away from people, wash your hands often, don’t touch your face.

It’s actually fairly simple stuff.

Stay well (or get better).

Vincent > Bill

Spotted on social media ad nauseum, lots of stuff like this:

So what?

Vincent CC Cheng et al. not only told us about “the Corona virus” [sic] back in 2007:

(that was ahead even of the MERS outbreak of 2012), they even told us exactly why this 2019/20 pandemic was going to happen:

It’s an informative and enlightening read, if you have the time.

The fact is that despite his standing, his fame and his amazing charity work, it seems that no-one batted an earlobe at Bill. And so why on earth would anyone have been bothered with what Vincent had to say?

We’re hearing so much about the changes in attitude that this pandemic is having and going to have in the future, but no-one listened to the experts back in 2007 – it’s only now that their (actually fairly obvious, when you read the evidence) predictions have come to pass that we’re giving them the time of day.

And even then, in this case, it seems like it’s only me that’s doing it.

Shouting about Bill will do no good now. No-one cared what he was saying back in 2015, false hero-worship of a false idol just because someone dug out an aging Ted talk and popped it on your Facebook isn’t going to stop any pandemic. Bill didn’t know about Coronaviruses; Bill was relaying the experts views to the general public.

The public chose not to listen.

Over in the UK, laboratory scientists and healthcare workers are being offered free coffees, cheaper food, special opening hours at supermarkets and numerous other benefits in the UK right now. And I think that’s great. They’re at the sharp end when it comes to this sort of thing. But then, they’ve always been at the sharp end. Underappreciated by a succession of governments – of every colour – and the general public for years and years, they’re suddenly the heroes of the hour. Sure: this is a biggie. And yet they’ve been putting their lives on the line in the face of some properly horrible diseases (CJD, Ebola, Anthrax, TB) for decades. So thanks for noticing now, but maybe have a sit down and a quick review of your previous thoughts and feelings on the people working in the healthcare sector when there was no global pandemic as well.

Once all this is over (the outbreak, that is); once we have the vaccine and some degree of herd immunity; once we’re returning to something like normal life, will you listen the next time Vincent or Bill has something to say?

I’m guessing not.

Living in extraordinary times

I was about to write about the reaction to the Covid-19 situation, and then I read this:

The weirdest part of living through the #COVID19 pandemic is this strange mixture of normalcy and emergency that we’re all experiencing. I constantly feel like I’m either over- or underreacting, or really both at the exact same time. It’s surreal. The level of uncertainty is such that, depending on what happens tonight, tomorrow, next week, all of our actions, both individually and collectively, might soon look foolish. This makes the whole situation extremely hard to process, intellectually and emotionally.

Which I think sums it up quite nicely. As individuals, communities and as a society, we literally don’t know what is coming next, be it this time next month, next week or even tomorrow. You suddenly realise that all your subconscious decision-making processes rely on a mixture of prior knowledge and predicting the likely situation in the near future. We don’t have either of those things right now and suddenly, the rug has been pulled from beneath our collective feet.

I was chatting to the kids about the situation this morning, and I pointed out that while my wife and I are doing our best to make the correct choices and do the right thing, we have also never experienced this before. It’s unprecedented, unsettling and downright weird. It’s omnipresent – the constant elephant in the room – and while you want or need) to know the latest news so that you can make informed choices, equally, you’d really rather not hear anything more on it, at all.

As I’m sure I have said before, a measured, sensible approach seems to be the safest course to take at the moment. (I’m talking about us as individuals in South Africa, not commenting here on guided government policies – although of course I have my feelings on those as well.) There are those who are so blasé about the whole thing that they will actually present a genuine risk to others when they are infected (and at some point in the future, all of us will be infected by this virus). And then at the opposite end of the scale, we have those who are unnecessarily limiting what little scrap of normality we have left before everything changes.

Attempting to delay the inevitable might not be seen as a bad idea, but ignoring the inevitable really is. Much as Canute failed to stop the tide on the beach at [citation required], their actions are equally futile. Key here is the need to behave responsibly once you think or are sure that you have the infection. You’ll live (although it might not feel that way for a few days), but not passing it on to vulnerable groups is hugely important. This is where Blasé Brad’s approach becomes so hazardous: Brad will continue to klapp gym boet and go about his normal business, not letting the illness get the better of him, and shedding virus everywhere he goes.

There is a ray of hope. The first steps towards a viable vaccine have been taken, and there’s a real opportunity for companies to work together to produce decent numbers of vaccines to protect those who are most at risk of complications from infection. I’m surprised that this hasn’t got more press, but then good news never sells papers.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Be sensible.