New Zealand Listener 03.7.2020

(Barré) #1



Something to wine about

An outbreak

here would
probably result

in advice to
avoid large

planes, trains
and buses.











t is the End of Days. Any moment
I expect someone to walk down
the road outside my place chant-
ing, “Bring out your dead!” The
level of Covid-19 hysteria is rising
beyond what the current circum-
stances would justify.
Let us look at the situation. As at
February 24 in China, which is the
epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak,
there were 77,150 confirmed cases
with 2592 deaths as a result. South
Korea had 833 cases with seven
deaths; Italy had more than 200 cases
and five deaths, and Iran has reported
61 cases and 12 deaths. Afghanistan
announced its first case and promptly
announced a state of
emergency, which is odd
as the country has been
a death-dealing war
zone for decades. There
have been no cases of
Covid-19 in New Zea-
land. Yet.
To quote the ancient
TV series Dad’s Army,
“Don’t panic, Mr Main-
waring, don’t panic!”
Covid-19 is not bubonic
plague or Ebola. It is like
a very nasty flu that,
in severe cases, could
kill you, especially if
you have a pre-existing
condition that weakens
your resistance. It is
not an automatic death

Fears of Covid-

seem over the top,

but I’m ready to go

into self-isolation.

Nevertheless, world markets are getting the
shakes. In New Zealand, tourism took a huge hit
as the travel ban from China removes one of our
biggest sources of visitors. Tertiary education is also
financially affected by the ban as thousands of fee-
paying Chinese students are stranded in China and
unable to attend school here. Forestry and other
local industries are also likely to face tougher times
as Chinese markets shrink and even disappear for
the time being. However, living in a largely rural
area, I’m just as worried about the economic effects
on the country of the ongoing drought. It’s about
maintaining a sense of proportion.
Even if or, rather, when the virus strikes here,
I am more than willing to put myself into self-
isolation. In fact, I do that already. Fourteen days at
home with a full freezer, Netflix and enough good
books sounds perfect. All right, we’ll add a couple
of dozen bottles of wine to that survival list.
Of course, the Covid-19 disease could mutate
into something more deadly. That happened in
1918, when a second virulent wave of an influenza
epidemic killed 9000 here in just two months.
However, I think medical research and technology
have improved somewhat since World War I, and a

modern casualty rate would be much
less than the 5.8 deaths per thousand
back then.
This is good news, as most of the
population can’t put themselves
into self-isolation to avoid infection.
An outbreak here would probably
result in advice to avoid large public
gatherings, planes, trains and buses,
which most people would need to get
to work or school, where the disease
could also be happily incubating


lthough the World Health
Organisation says it is “too
early” to call Covid-19 a pan-
demic, I notice one New Zealand
academic saying the disease could
infect “billions” of people around
the world. That is premature and not
a particularly helpful thing to say,
because it simply contributes to a
sense of nationwide panic in advance
of any outbreak.
As well as travel bans,
New Zealand has some
solid options for keeping
Covid-19 under control
if necessary, including
stocks of antivirals,
millions of face masks,
fast-testing techniques
and a health system that
has had time to prepare
for such infections.
In the meantime,
I’m concentrating on
building up my stocks of
food and wine, popping
down to the bookshop
and making my own
preparations. The idea of
self-isolation is increas-
ingly attractive, even if
there never is a single
case of Covid-19 here. l
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