In my prescient (albeit understated) post of January 31st, I suggested that there would be upwards of 32,000 cases and at least 1,600 deaths attributable to the novel coronavirus. Well, 45 days later, there are officially 198,000 cases and 7,965 deaths, which means the real numbers are MUCH higher. I underestimated the virulence of this bug, and whether it follows the sharp parabola or the long curve, it now seems there will be tens of millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. So no more zombie cheerleader jokes. Shit got real.
Here in New South Wales we are leading the 2019-nCoV charge for Australia, clearing out our nursing homes and aged-care facilities. While Oz may have 452 cases, only 27 have recovered so far, leaving the vast remainder requiring some degree of care. So our looming predicament, closely mirroring Italy’s quandry, is when to stop offering medical aid to people over the age of 65, or to people with comorbidities such as heart disease or diabetes? Because we only have so many ventilators, an illness that mostly kills you via acute respiratory distress syndrome means we’ll be standing by while our sick and elderly choke to death. My fellow Australians, are you ready for this?
It’s in my nature to joke at other peoples’ expense in this blog. Today I won’t. Our Government has woken up, and they are scared. ScoMo faces the crushing reality that, like climate change, we may have missed the boat. Our fate may be worse than Italy. The lucky country? Don’t think so, mate. That myth was ground to ashes by Tony Abbott during the killing years. Conservative governments are always slow off the mark, but this one moves at a glacial pace at a time were every minute counts. But they’re not the only culprits: for the majority of Aussies, the single worst thing about the coronavirus is that the footy has been cancelled. Yes, an ungodly percentage of us are that dumb.
Unfortunately, I am among the unhappy minority who can’t work from home. We can’t protect ourselves from infection in any meaningful way, short of basic hand-washing and rudimentary PPE. Acknowledging the dangers, aren’t we entitled to more effective personal protective equipment? Apparently not, because she’ll be right mate, that’s why. I notice the contract cleaners haven’t upped their routines, nobody is cleaning doorhandles, we’re still hot-desking, sharing equipment, swapping partners, cohabiting vehicles and going toe-to-toe with the pestiliential public. Duty of care, what duty of care? Got to be some liability here.
Yes ScoMo, we should all be scared. A colleague of mine commented yesterday: “Forget coronavirus, I just contact with a bloke who has HIV, Hep-C and impetigo.” Add that to the shingles, cellulitis, staph, scabies, warts and herpes we risk from one errant bite, and I’m surprised any of us are still upright. But maybe the truth is that because we deal with the shambling undead every day, our radar is finely tuned to self-preservation. Our PPE, though basic, is working. Like I said to my wife twenty years ago, “Funny job. It’s the only place where you wash your hande before you go to the toilet.” Anyway, speak soon, unless I’m dead. At least all those masks we stockpiled during the bushfires won’t be wasted.