It’s six months since the first case of Covid-19 was diagnosed in Australia. The milestone invites a review of how we’ve managed the outbreak thus far and a preview of where we might be headed. For the first four months or so we seemed to have it under control. But then community transmission flared in Melbourne and that has triggered a much wider national concern.
There are many questions. What is the overall shape of the pandemic? How long will it last? How many people will die? How many businesses and jobs will evaporate? How will we be changed by this adversity?
In Australia, the flu pandemic of 1919 killed 15,000 people in a population of five million – about what Melbourne’s population is today. It does not appear that Covid-19 will claim anywhere near that number of lives, and the overall comparison offers some hope. It could be that a pandemic of this type and scale in an Australian context has the capacity to operate for about 12 months – and if this is the case then we’re at about the halfway mark right now.
Surviving a national pandemic and all the associated economic impacts and ravages requires businesses to be agile and adaptive, and the community to remain unfailingly self-disciplined and united. Of course it’s possible to point to incidents that would suggest otherwise, but for the most part I think we’ve managed to remain united (perhaps with some sniping) and have adapted well to our straitened circumstances, generally with good humour. That, plus good sanitation and personal hygiene, daily messaging from leadership, as well as – and I do think this is an important difference from 1919 – the replacement of cash with electronic transactions. The handling of cash now seems fraught with risk.
If I’m right, and we’re at about the halfway mark, the next six months could well be the toughest time of all. Government support will be scaled back. Many businesses that managed to hold on for several months could well run out of reserves. And then there’s the possibility of battle fatigue setting in.
It leads me to conclude that one of the most important attributes required over the balance of this year is strong mental health. People who remain connected, upbeat and hopeful about the future are most likely to emerge in a stronger position to reap the rewards of post-pandemic opportunities. It’s easy to recede into a netherworld of Netflix, self-pity and of wishing-it-was-over. It’s not over. There’s a long way to go. We need to remain mentally strong.
In addition to the wearing of masks and the enforcement of social distancing protocols, what I think we need is a program to support mental health. This would be a program of community support that costs nothing, that builds relationships, and that gives strength to those who are living silently and stoically on the edge.
In the meantime, reach out to those in lockdown to show that you care, to show that there is a common bond of humanity, to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Surviving the pandemic of 2020 involves getting through to the other side, not necessarily with a job or a business intact, but at the very least with a positive disposition, good mental health and strong interpersonal relationships. We can’t yet vaccinate against coronavirus, but we can beat it by remaining united and adaptive and by being irrepressibly positive about the future.
Source: The Australian