This title is the best of three so far.
I’m trying not to use the acronym, COVID-19 for the Coronavirus disease or its virus’s code: SARS-CoV-2. The latter is ominous and is an abbreviation for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome which when coupled with 3 times the degree of contagion, is the essence of this problem globally. Probably my first and last piece of humour: I’m so glad Eskom seems to not have caught the virus. Please stay indoors Eskom, preferably close to the boilers.
For the rest, my thoughts, hopefully, to lift our eyes and hearts….
CRISIS in Chinese contains two symbols: Danger and Opportunity. I’m sure you’ve often heard that even from me. However, I learned this morning that though widely used, it is not the correct interpretation of the Chinese term. Rather, it means: Danger at a point of juncture. To take the meaning further, Juncture means: A particular point in events or time OR, A place where things join.
Machiavelli first said: Never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis and Winston Churchill popularized Machiavelli by saying: Never let a good crisis go to waste.
With those thoughts on the table, what does it mean to us? Firstly, we are in a crisis. Every now and again I allow myself the luxury of wondering why Flu kills 600000 people a year even with a vaccine and we hardly bat an eyelid. Cancer, road accidents, diabetes, obesity and heart attacks follow suit. But drawing myself back to the evidence, Covid is three times more contagious and would kill more acutely if allowed to get out of hand. In short, if 70% of 7billion people were infected, then by Christmas, 49million people would die if the health services held up. Concentrated in older or less-immune populations [read: Italy and South Africa], that 49m would be unevenly distributed across the globe and wipe out the aged and weak, but much more like a mudslide than a fast-flowing river.
In other words, a mudslide takes everything with it whilst a river may be escaped by those able to flee. At tiny proportions of these sums, the health systems would collapse by end-April and remain that way as the impossible task would exhaust every resource in a country’s medical arsenal. Another issue is that you have it for up to 2 weeks before you know it so it’s not what you have initially, it’s what you give that is the frightening thing. So, to sum it up, me and those I “touch” would not escape the rampage of the virus.
Ironically, as there is no real medicine to counteract the virus at this stage, the unsophisticated cure to this crisis is to lock-down in self-isolation and/or respect physical distancing. To do any less, unless it is critical to do, is selfishness of the highest order. Already governments are calling in unprecedented measures to make people isolate as far as humanly possible. Watching Boris Johnson last night after the British people took to the streets and parks in a weekend of rare Spring sunshine, he was blunt in what he will do next if they don’t behave and isolate. His argument is that Italy has excellent medical care, but they have fallen over in exhaustion losing the battle now at up to 800 deaths per day. The NHS will do the same, he insisted.
So, what about us? We are precarious with a dual population of well-off and poor. Predominantly amongst the poor, we have twin peaks of TB and AIDS. Then finally, we have people come into our homes, shops and factories every day who arrived there in congested taxis, buses or the odd train. We truly have a cauldron of contagion, a crisis, and we cannot think it away. No wonder the President has made radical decisions so quickly even though we cannot afford them. By the way, he has been brilliant in my opinion and for once, all his personal imperatives and skills at consultation, have kicked in for all of us to see. Political parties [except the Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, ACDP, who is quarantined], Labour, Business, and Social Groupings all combining to accept and agree on packages to make our isolation to 16 April, a possibility. Well done, Mr President! We don’t like what you’re doing but we really value that you’re doing it to try to “flatten the curve”. And what an amazing gesture of support for the nation in the R1bn donations each from the Rupert and Oppenheimer families.
Please, my reader friend, listen to him – you are less bullet-proof than you think.
Now that I’ve stated the obvious and re-nauseated those of us exhausted by the news, what was all that about “not wasting a crisis”? I am intrigued by the notion of “juncture” this morning. It is the danger at a point in time or where everything meets, that the word CRISIS speaks to. I like to think of snooker balls that are aimed and strike each other at precise angles – a point in time and juncture. No matter how softly, they clink and bounce apart on an intended path. The energy of the player transmitted through the cue drives the energy that moves the balls. What a different metaphor now than the one I intended when I sat down to write this blog! You see the snooker balls are designed for movement, not to stick together. They are designed for winning ways. When they’re sunk, they score and sometimes, when sunk by mistake they are re-introduced to the game, they literally, get a second chance. No wonder the inimitable Winston Churchill, admonishes us to “never let a good crisis go to waste”.
With this blog in mind I have been trying to come up with an alternate acronym for COVID. I’m sure you have many, but in the light of the above, I propose:
You see, using a crisis for victory, means that you are not exempt from it and so you enter it with everybody else whether you’re infected or not. But then you use every ounce of your energy for two things:
- To protect yourself, those closest to you, and those beyond.
- To learn from the crisis and then begin to plan for life after the crisis.
Like I’ve said about retirement, you don’t plan for retirement, you plan through retirement. You answer the question: When I retire, what will I do beyond that “juncture” to ensure life is meaningful to me and others. To use the metaphor above, you’d just be moving your snooker game to a new table but use the same balls. This crisis has the potential for good change if you isolate and don’t hibernate if you lift your head and don’t succumb to defeat. Trust me, I’m not being patronising or clever. I’m already speaking to people who confess they’re “benoud” [fearful, anxious] and I don’t blame them.
Coronavirus has the potential to cripple lives, finances, dreams and even societies and their governments. I’m watching President Trump like a hawk and last night distinctly felt he’s losing grip of the situation and any hope he has for a second term. Phaffing around with the Defence Bill, wondering if 15 days of shutdown is excessive, bidding against New York State for medical supplies, may be sowing the seeds of his own downfall. On the other hand, Italy, Britain and South Africa seem to have the leadership fortitude to succeed “whatever it takes”.
To finish this Part 1, my immediate actions for your consideration:
- Hygiene: The big no-brainer at this stage of the game. Sanitise, sanitise, sanitise. You cannot wash your hands enough. And then, DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE! Yes, that includes you Jack – I really battle with this one and sometimes I feel like Nadal before he serves ☺
- Isolate: Whoever and as much as you can. I’ll say that again, Whoever and as much as you can. It is the big gainer in this disease. It flattens the curve and if you have doubts, China shutdown Hubei Province of 60 million people and Wuhan City in it. Whilst Wuhan remains closed until early April, Hubei is open for traffic. No better sight was seeing cars on their highways this morning as life begins its journey back to normality. Joy to the World; there is hope at the end of the isolation tunnel!
- Test: If you get a dry cough and sense a fever, test without failure or delay. Plan now how you may isolate in your own environment if you test positive to prevent infecting those nearest to you.
I realise that many of you for valid reason feel you cannot isolate. However, be bold enough to ask yourself the question: What would I do if infected? And then work back from there. In this regard, we have a church of about 700 people with 80% of them over the age of 65, the highest of risk by any metric. It has been a real challenge to cancel all meetings, at this stage probably Easter, and then trying to stay in touch with the congregation many of whom are technically challenged and perhaps not even wealthy enough to be tech-savvy. Dealing with this issue in a short space of time has given me a little insight into the difficulties many readers will face in their business.
Have patience with your leaders at whatever level; they have never been here before.
We’ll continue with Part 2 in 48 hours tops.