I returned from Thailand on Tuesday night and it is now Friday night. I checked the Covid-19 news in Australia and there was talk of closing businesses, universities and schools in favour of people working from home, university students studying online and school students studying from home. As of Tuesday, reports indicated that people were, somewhat irrationally, panic buying toilet paper. It was not particularly difficult to predict that this situation would rapidly morph into panic buying of foodstuffs in general and so it did.

When I went shopping on Wednesday my local supermarket was out of stock of toilet paper and pasta, but that was all. When I went shopping today, the situation had changed dramatically. People had cleared the shelves of all rice and pasta. Canned vegetables were all but gone. There had been a run on pot noodles. Tinned fruit had almost disappeared. The same was true for long life milk and long life fruit juice. People had also bought up all the flour – white, brown, plain, self-raising and so on – presumably so that they might bake whilst isolated in their homes.

Despite the panic shopping, a discerning consumer could still purchase more than sufficient food to last for months. One of the key reasons for this fact is that panic buying had focussed on the cheaper, perhaps even the cheapest products, on the supermarket shelves. As such, there were plentiful supplies of some of the more expensive lines including international foods ranging across Asian, Indian and Mexican products. Surprisingly there were still plentiful supplies of every type of dried fruit imaginable along with packets of mixed fruits and trail mix.

I have always been of the view that I want to be able to do more than subsist should I find myself confined to my home for months on end. In other words I want to be enjoying what I eat should a lockdown occur. Happily for me, people do not seem to intend to eat desserts should we all end up confined to our houses for weeks on end and so I was able to stock up on waffles, pancake mixes, cake mixes, rice pudding, jellies, dessert sauces, maple syrup, and chocolate sprinkles. The only thing that I shall miss will be ice cream as my freezer is not of a sufficient size to stock pile.

Whilst I can see that there is some point to just stocking up with as much food as possible, it also strikes me that one ought to take a slightly more rational approach to planning for a worst case scenario. This weekend I will create an Excel Spreadsheet and log all the supplies that are currently spread across my kitchen works surfaces. With spreadsheet functionality in mind, the columns will list the brand, food type, quantity of each product, number of servings and the expiry date. Spreadsheet functionality will mean that I will be able to filter my records to determine, for example, the use by date for a particular product.

I have also recently subscribed to Netflix and so I can conceive of the coming months as really being peaceful and relaxing. I’ll do a bit of work during the day, watch Netflix in the early evening and then write from around 10 PM until around 2 AM. The question is, I suppose, whether events will turn out in this way. Well, there are strong indications from the Australian government, that there will be a bit of a shutdown in Australia, a strategy that is referred to as an attempt at “flattening the curve”, something that seems eminently sensible given projected figures for the number of people who will potentially contract the virus in Australia.

In line with this likely initiative, the University where I work is conducting its Covid-19 operations on the assumption that the University may be closed down within two weeks for an unspecified amount of time. Meetings that are non essential – a significant majority – will be cancelled and those that do have a purpose will be conducted by Virtual Meeting Points (VMPs). So, given that I will most likely be working from home in the not too distant future, I am extremely hopeful that will be able to structure my days so that work intrudes minimally. Watching Netflix and spending my time writing will take precedence.

I watched my flu symptoms with interest and it would appear that they have receded. It did occur to me that perhaps I should have been slightly more socially responsible by alerting my GP to the fact that I had said symptoms but I would make two points in this respect. First, health services are overrun and barely coping as a result of the fact that anyone with even the slightest of sniffles seems to be heading post-haste to either a doctor or a hospital to see whether they have contracted the Covid 19 virus. Exercising some self control might see our health services being better able to cope with what is going on.

Recently I read that should someone be diagnosed with the virus then an attempt would be made to determine all of the people with whom they had come into contact so that a possible path of infection might be traced. I just cannot see how such a course of action could be in any way effective. I was on a plane with about 300 people. When I arrived in Australia I waited at the luggage carousel with around 80 other passengers. I passed through customs where I spoke with 3 customs officials. I then bought a bus ticket to the city and sat on a bus with around 100 people. I caught the train home, sitting in a carriage with around fifty or so people.

Having arrived home I settled in for the night. The next day I went to the cattery to pick up my two cats. I then went shopping before returning home where I remained until the following day. I went shopping again the next day and have been at home ever since. Fair to say that I have interacted with a considerable number of people and it would seem to me to be difficult, if not impossible, to trace all the people with whom I came into contact, followed by the people with whom they came into contact and so on and so forth. My point here is that I am wondering about just how effectively tracing measures might be in stopping the spread of the virus.

For those of you thinking that I have behaved irresponsibly, I would just note that I wore an N95 medical grade mask on my return flight to Australia and I have worn an N95 medical grade mask at all times when in public since returning to Australia. I have also made use of an alcohol based hand sanitiser during my forays into the world and I have been fastidious in this respect. These facts mean that I have ensured that I have not been spreading any germs that I might have. More importantly, from my perspective at least. I have also ensured as far as I can that I do not contract Covid-19 from people who are far less responsible than me.

First Published May 13th, 2020

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