Life in the time of coronavirus

It’s as if we’ve crossed a threshold into a new world. If someone sneezes, you recoil. If someone reaches out their hand, you waver. If someone asks to meet, you hesitate. Wash your hands often. Don’t touch your face. Get a face-mask. Don’t get a face-mask. Welcome to the COVID coronavirus era.

The trouble with pandemics is they are messy, unpredictable and invisible. They spread silently, easy to ignore, then boom everyone has the virus. Just ask the people in Hubei, China. On my count, there have been four flu pandemics in the last one hundred years. The Swine flu in 2009. The Hong Kong flu in 1968. The Asian flu in 1957. And the Spanish flu 1918. The Spanish flu was the super deadly one – it infected over a quarter of the world and killed up to 100,000,000 people. The Swine flu turned out to be relatively mild – though it still killed hundreds of thousands.

Experts say COVID-19 is more dangerous than the Swine flu and could be as bad as the Spanish flu – no wonder the Chinese have been so aggressive to contain it. When I say experts, I mean trained scientists. There seems to be another class of experts – the amateur ones living in social media with their own theories. Some are saying there is nothing to worry about; more people die from regular flu. Others say this is a man-made virus aimed to reduce the world population. I guess in a post-modern fake news world, you can have whatever truth you want.

Back in the real world, it’s amazing how quickly we can adapt to a new way of living. No more travel. No more in-person meetings. More screen-based communication. Our kids probably don’t notice a difference, but I have. I carry hand-gel. I wash my hands more often. I’ve learned to greet people with “Ebola handshake” (elbow bump) or the “Wuhan shake” (foot-to-foot). I regularly check COVID-19 tracking websites. I hope it makes a difference. Stay safe.


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