This morning I had one of the worst headaches I can remember having. I lay in the dark with a pillow on my head and the cat in my armpit. Later, I slept on my son’s bed, desperate to get away from the noises at the other end of the house. My friend said perhaps it was a migraine. I can’t comment. I’ve never really understood where headaches end and migraines begin. Eventually I had a shower and washed the last heavy chunks of it away but even so it left me drained and fuzzy.
I feel like, when this COVID19 thing is over (will it ever be over?), I will have evolved into a new person. Before the kids were born, I used to tell people that “I’m not a morning person. I’m a night owl”. But the kids still get up at 6am and any thoughts of having a choice in what hours I prefer have long since vanished. You adjust because demand requires it. Now I watch Netflix and every movie has me thinking “Look at how they just freely touch each other and interact in large groups! They were so naive!”. I just wonder if humans will learn to distrust unnecessary contact. Will I forget my love of cafe-culture and arm-chair chats? Will I have grown used to home-based plans and family-only-company?
Yesterday, on The Signal, they interviewed their regular epidemiologist from Melbourne University. He talked about Australia’s choices in where it goes from here. Simplified, there are three main choices.
We can go for the herd immunity option where you let it wash through the population until 70% have had it, providing us with sufficient immunity to protect us. The Chief Medical Officer has ruled this out. He said 15 million Australians would have to have it and, if that included a 1% death rate, that would be catastrophic. I am relieved at this decision. I have little faith that we could control it well enough to keep the death rate down to 1%.
The second option is what we are currently doing – flattening the curve. Australia has done very well at it so far. And, assuming a vaccine can be invented and distributed, it is a sort of balancing act that keeps the economy just bubbling enough to be workable. But it is at a huge cost (personally to millions and economically to the whole country) and will have to go on for such a long time – nobody knows how long.
The third option is to really batten down the hatches for several weeks – tighten the lock-down laws much more – and attempt to eradicate the virus from our shores altogether. After perhaps four or five weeks of this very strict regime, we would slowly lift some of the rules, waiting and watching to see if more cases emerged. As the epidemiologist said, it’s hard to prove something doesn’t exist. And then, if we did eradicate it, Australia’s borders would have to stay very strictly closed until such time as we felt the rest of the world was safe. Or until a vaccine became available. Again, who knows how long all that would take? Who knows if it would even work?
So none of them are stand-out best option. And what if no vaccination can be found? What then?
This week the government put forward the idea of an app to track people so that, when there was spread of the virus, it could be easily traced. I read a few responses on the ABC website. People are terrified of being tracked by their own government. It’s an invasion of privacy. It’s military law.
I get that. I understand the fear and I feel it too, in waves. But I also think it’s naive. We are tracked already. All of us. By google. By Facebook. Every time we use a credit card. Every time we park in a paid parking spot. Every time we withdraw money from a bank, get paid, do a transaction. We are tracked by Big Business. All this has been sold to us as convenience and has integrated itself so successfully into our lives that we barely register it except in isolated moments of irritation. But when our own government wants it for the good of the community, it is terrifying and overwhelming and anti-democratic.
Imagine the convenience of COVID19 being beaten?
As I cleaned my teeth tonight, I saw a small spider (a young Daddy-Long-Legs?) abseiling down from the ceiling. I stared at its legs but it was apparently motionless and its thread was invisible. It landed simply and neatly on the edge of the basin and scurried off over a washer to do whatever it is that spiders do at 10:30pm on a Thursday night. I have no idea if or when it disconnected from its thread. All I know is that I was slightly envious. It seemed a lot freer than any of us.