Covid-18

Returning to the hot topic of the Covid-19 virus, people continue to be predictable with fights breaking out at a supermarket in Sydney over toilet paper and at another supermarket in Sydney for an as yet unspecified reason. Another web page shows a range of videos with astonishing scenes from around the world including the aforementioned fights in Sydney, an unbelievable queue outside a supermarket in the United Kingdom and scenes from an overrun supermarket in New York.

Happily, for me at least, the people at the supermarket that I visited this morning were behaving in a civilized way. This was the case even though the supermarket had run out of tinned produce, pasta, rice, fresh milk, long life milk, fresh juice, long life juice, fresh meat and fresh poultry. I didn’t check the freezer sections because I have no room in my freezer for any more food. This is not because I have a big freezer stuffed full of food but because my freezer is only a little larger than an icebox.

There has also been significant bulk buying of all types of cat food. However, there was sufficient cat food remaining on the shelves for me to ensure that my two cats will be eating extremely well for the next three months. By extremely well I mean that they will continue with their daily meals and with their evening snacks and bedtime snacks. I am happy about this fact because, hard as I have tried, my cats do not seem to be grasping the idea of the Covid-19 pandemic. I can now stop bothering them with the details because their lives will continue just as they are at the moment.

I was intending to write about the next likely stage of the Covid-19 virus saga given that people are utterly predictable and stupid. However, the prediction that I was going to make has already come true viz. people in the United States are lining up to buy guns ostensibly in order to protect themselves against looters. However, it is not hard to imagine what will happen should the virus spread even more widely with fatality rates increasing exponentially and food supplies becoming scarce. Gun touting Americans will look after number one.

I have always felt that civilization, defined perhaps in terms of the way that the majority of normalized people behave, is but a thin veneer of the sort that will crumble away all too readily when the rule of law is no longer in place. Although one would not wish to over simplify the matter of the robustness or not of our civilizations, the case of former Yugoslavia should serve as a reminder of what can happen when societies break down. Roughly 250,000 people died in wars and from ethnic cleansing. I have not been able to find the figures for rapes but those figures are significant.

Another aspect of the current situation that interests me is the articles that pop up every now and then mentioning “racism” and “racial targeting”. Whilst I have managed to find only one of the articles that I have read with content on this point, it will suffice in terms of illustrating what I wish to say. Throwing the words “racism” or “racial targeting” into an article or a discussion is a most wonderous way to muddy the waters in any debate. The terms are so emotionally loaded that people will inevitably react viscerally and vehemently, no matter which side of the discussion they happen to be on. So, try to remain level headed as you read the next part of the post.

The charge of racial targeting has been levelled against Border Control Australia due to two Chinese students being detained when entering Australia. “Racial targeting” or “racial profiling” are both defined in the same manner. Both refer to, “the act of suspecting or targeting a person of a certain race on the basis of observed or assumed characteristics or behavior of a racial or ethnic group, rather than on individual suspicion“. So, one can see how the charge or racial targeting might arise with respect to detaining two Chinese students coming into Australia. However, I am not sure that the case is as straightforward as one might assume.

First, let’s start with some facts. An Australian news story reports that, “The travel ban for non citizens in China was implemented on February 1 and it has not been eased since that time . . . Similar travel bans have now been extended to Iran, Italy and the Republic of Korea.” However, during the month of February, 31,000 selfish and irresponsible Chinese students circumvented Australia’s travel ban by staying in a third country for two weeks before entering Australia. This means that we are talking about two Chinese students out of 31,000 Chinese students who flaunted Australian border control measures and risked bringing the virus to Australia. That hardly seems like racial profiling.

Some of you might demure with respect to my characterizing these Chinese students as “selfish and irresponsible” for travelling to Australia but the data that we have with respect to the number of active Covid-19 cases in China makes it clear that the “travel ban” on Chinese travellers coming to Australia was an absolutely necessary course of action. The same point holds for travellers coming from Iran, Italy and the Republic of Korea. What did these 31,000 Chinese students do when faced with a travel ban that was meant to protect Australia from a virus that originated in China? They travelled to Australia not caring one jot whether or not the brought the virus with them. And so, I shall say it again, “selfish and irresponsible.”

It might be argued that the two week stay in a third country mitigates the risk of these Chinese students bringing the virus to Australia but that is simply not the case. First, the notion that the incubation period for the virus is two weeks has always been questionable. Secondly, there are people with the virus who show no symptoms which means that they will be spreading the virus without any knowledge that they are doing so. A further line of argument might be that these students are just uninformed about the facts that I am presenting in this piece of writing. That is no excuse. They are University students for God’s sake and should be keeping themselves abreast of Covid-19 information.

I know that there are arguments that closing borders does not really help to prevent the spread of the virus to other countries but the argument seems to be one of how effectively the borders are controlled, not whether those borders should be controlled. This is just plain common sense. If you stop infected people entering the country then they cannot spread the virus. More specifically, if Australia had managed to stop 31,000 Chinese students from entering Australia then the government would have effectively stopped 31,000 potential virus carriers from entering Australia. That did not happen and so it is a certainty that infected travellers have already entered Australia.

Surely the next step should be to institute a nation wide lockdown along with social distancing measures as soon as possible to ensure that those who have the virus – including the 31,000 Chinese students – do not transmit the virus to others. And this brings me to my final point. If you think that people are going to behave reasonably during this outbreak, by self-isolating and distancing themselves socially, then think again. Australia is already suggesting a plan whereby you can “dob in your mate“, that is, report someone who should be self-isolating but who is not in fact self-isolating. Draconian measures will be needed to deal with people in Australia who just will not do the right thing.

I just went to get a drink of water and there is no water supply. My water supply has been interrupted a number of time since I moved to my current home. The cause has, in each case, been a burst water main. I have just checked the Water Board app and there is again a burst water main two blocks away from where I live. The app says that the water main will be fixed in 8-10 hours. This fact is of absolutely no concern to me but I did think through what would would happen in the case of a severe pandemic that wiped out a significant percentage of the population including the engineers who fix burst water mains. Management 101. Hope for the best and plan for the worst.

First Published March 16th, 2020

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