I spent six hours at Westmead Hospital yesterday. Not by choice mind you. I was a bit reluctant to make an appearance to be honest, given that three cases of COVID-19 had been diagnosed there. But you know what? It was business as usual there. I didn’t see one masked face inside the gigantic public hospital in Sydney’s west. The staff were as professional and efficient as ever. People went calmly about their business. There was no pervading sense of doom, no skull and crossbones signage about the place.
Coronavirus: Pressing the panic button on COVID-19
Well, no more than the usual warnings about snaffling cytotoxic material and taking it home to show your mates.
Without wanting to be overly dramatic Westmead Hospital is on the COVID-19 front line and refreshingly, it was a sea of calm in an ocean of mad panic.
I know in this post-fact era a lot of weight is given to people’s opinions. It is sometimes said that an opinion is like the excretory opening at the end of the alimentary canal because everyone has one, but in these days of social media where people delight in telling others what they reckon on all manner of topics and sundry affairs, opinions are more like gut bacilli in that everyone has loads and most of them are not terribly interesting.
That’s a tough situation at the best of times but when it comes to unstoppable pathogenic viruses a little knowledge is literally a dangerous thing.
The first sign that experts are being ignored is toilet paper hoarding. The one and only question here is why? What do people expect from COVID-19 – explosive diarrhoea? Spontaneous combustion? Or do they see themselves as survivors of an imagined post-pandemic future where toilet paper becomes a universally accepted currency?
Fight to the death for bog roll
I could understand it if there was a sudden outbreak of amoebic dysentery but for a respiratory disease it makes no sense. Tissues, sure. Paper towel, all right but only for frontal use, OK?
Have we reached the stage where people who have seen too many movies of the end times, have started to think, “I’ve got a shopping trolley full of 48-packs of four-ply. With that kind of post-apocalyptic coin, I could end up being Queen of the Thunderdome where people fight to the death and the victor is swathed in bog roll.”
If people are going to firmly press the panic button, they should be aware that where there’s hoarding there will always be profiteering. An illicit distribution of scarce resources at exorbitant prices. A brown market, in this case.
The Great Toilet Paper Reckoning is upon us and it is only a matter of time before we see dodgy looking characters stepping out from shop fronts.
“Psst. I got half a roll of Quilton Soft and Sanitary. Yours for a monkey. Feel the quality.”
And don’t get me started on hand sanitisers. You might have seen them before they disappeared from supermarket shelves in a rush of panic buying. These products proudly boast that they kill 99 per cent of germs. What, like 99 per cent of bacteria? All but one per cent of microbes? The overwhelming majority of bacterium? Maybe. But they don’t kill COVID-19. You can check the label if you don’t believe me.
Dim Doomsday Peppers
Alas, as with outlaw motorcycle gangs, it’s the one per cent that does all the damage.
And while I’m at it, who are these people who need to be reminded to wash their hands? What are we in primary school? The act of washing one’s hands with soap and water creates an oil which, if done effectively (for two minutes at a time, the experts say), microscopic nasties are removed from the skin and bundled down the drain.
Hoarding is about the silliest thing a human being can do. We see it under normal circumstances at least twice every year. Go supermarket shopping on Christmas Eve or Maundy Thursday – the two days that fall before the only two days on the calendar year where supermarkets will be closed for a full 24 hours and it’s like the Doomsday Preppers have taken over.
On the weekend I saw a news reporter vox popping hoarders who were leaving the shops with their trolleys fit to burst. One bloke proudly announced that he hated Spam but had bought a gross of it. Apparently that’s how he sees his future, grimacing over a plate of Spam, Spam, Spam, powdered egg, Spam, Spam, Spam and Spam.
It says a great deal about hoarders that their imagined futures are worse than the present.
I am fairly sure these people haven’t quite thought things through.
I don’t want to make light of an unfolding global human tragedy but the thought of being locked away in my house with my family for weeks if not months is a nightmare far worse than any pandemic. It wouldn’t matter if the pantry was bursting with Spam. A couple of weeks in lock down and I’d go looking for a bad dose of the Black Death just to take the edge off the tension.
This is why we have licensed premises, people. To get away from our families.
Smarten up, Australia.