Article by Poonam Naik
What a dramatic start to the year 2020. As if the drama of bushfire and floods was not enough, we had the epidemic of corona virus breaking out in early January in Wuhan in Mainland China. In the aftermath of a possible exposure, suspected patients were asked to self – isolate for 14 days to avoid further human to human transmission. The resulting effect was a panic and chaos at supermarkets like Aldi, Coles and Indian grocery stores. Everything was flying off the shelves but toilet roll, hand sanitisers and tissues took the biggest swipe. The humble and the modest toilet paper was suddenly the most precious and dear thing. Gradually people started stockpiling non – perishable items like flour, sugar, canned food items, frozen ready meals to survive in anticipation of a possible 14 – day isolation.
The primary culprit is a cultural phenomenon that economists, psychologists, and political scientists have called the bandwagon effect. The bandwagon effect (or contagion effect) is a phenomenon in which the rate at which the spread of ideas, behaviour, and trends rises with the rate of others adopting the trend. A large part of the blame also goes to media both traditional ones like tv and modern like social media – Facebook and Whatsapp.
Corona virus started in Wuhan city in Hubei province in late December 2019. It happened as a result of transmission from wet markets where rare and live animals are traded for their ancient medical and beauty properties. This trade is illegal and yet very common in South East Asian countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan and Cambodia. It’s not the first time that such a big public health infection has originated from China. It has a precedent of SARS and the Bird Flu from 2003. Because of globalisation and constant movement of people, this corona virus or COVID-19 has taken big counters in its death toll. The worst affected countries outside of China or those who have surpassed it are USA, Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany and UK. Mostly all countries have taken the initiative of full or partial lockdowns including Australia in order to contain further community transmissions. World – wide travel bans have been placed as well and borders closed so that no more cases of overseas acquired cases increase.
Many events were cancelled like F1 in Melbourne and The Royal Easter Show in Sydney. Travel businesses like Flight Centre and major airlines like Qantas and Jet were the first to lay off staff to fight the economic effects. Then the major retailers like Rivers, Millers were forced to shut down stores. Myer closed all its stores for 4 weeks to tide with the retail level losses. Stock markets was crashing and super and pension balances were getting a bit hit. Stimulus packages by many countries were released including here in Australia so as to keep the cycle of economy going on. Schools and daycares remained open to cater to essential frontline staff like teachers, doctors, nurses and hospital staff. Schools shifted to home schooling. Many offices changed their headquarters back to work from home to lower the numbers in its employees. Cafes and restaurants have thrived on take aways only as we are in Stage 3 restrictions where sit in dinning is a distant dream.
This time the Internet is flooded with hotspots tracking apps of COVID-19 cases, Vlogs of quarantines, TikTok videos and Facebook memes, Youtube uploads and live streaming of museums and zoos. Many resourceful websites also exist to keep us fit, calm, social and productive as well. Zoom, Webex, House and so many apps started offering live and interactive spaces so people could interact and feel a bit normal under these restrictions of social distancing. NSW had 16 viable reasons to get out and about of your own house. Police started handing out fines for any invalid or non – essential reason of travel outside your house.
April Fool’s Day was totally wiped out of our calendars this year. Easter and school holidays are going to be a home affair. This long hibernation of social distancing will be worth treasured by human beings who are born to be social even in the most introvert of times. Stay safe and let’s laugh about the chaos over the most unassuming toilet roll.