Today I am already hunkered down at home, preserving some more of the fruit that is falling off the trees. Chris is doing a last run to Cromwell, 25 minutes away, to stock up on hardware supplies so that we have plenty of woodworking projects to keep us occupied when the cold keeps us out of the garden. As I correspond with my friends around the country they tell me they are closing down their businesses, laying off staff, and organising safely-spaced essential workplaces. Our country is racing against the clock to our Level 4 lockdown.
For those of us not in the ‘essential services’ I think yesterday delivered a sense of relief and simplicity at the prospect of ‘Level 4’. What do we have to do? Stay home. I can’t help laughing at the current meme doing the rounds that reads something like, “Our grandparents were called up to fight in wars, we are called to sit on the couch and stay home. Don’t f*** this up.”. I think sitting at home might get harder as the weeks wear on, but right now we have a needed clarity.
Will it be only 4 weeks of a countrywide shutdown? Highly unlikely, I would have thought. After 2 weeks, the vast majority of the infections that have already spread, but which are not yet evident, will have resulted in symptoms – only around 1 in 100 people incubate the disease for longer than 14 days. However, that next two weeks will also almost certainly see the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases rise rapidly, and New Zealand’s trend on my ‘favourite’ graph won’t be pretty.
After two weeks, hopefully, we might see a reduction in the upward trend. If our figures match those of European countries, two weeks post 100 cases (which we reached on 23 March) will put us at around 3,000 to 4,000 people with confirmed COVID-19, which will equate to 400-560 people in hospital, 150-200 people in intensive care and 30-40 people on ventilators. New Zealand has around 230 intensive care beds and fewer ventilators. The COVID-19 numbers ignore the people already in those intensive care beds and who fall ill from other disease over the same period. Therefore, two weeks from now we will be mightily hoping these rough numbers are incorrect (and that our acting early has made a difference already) and our that our curve for new COVID-19 cases is flattening. I should add, these are just my rough numbers, based on figures from the internet – you shouldn’t believe me!
Who to believe is a really tricky problem right now. There are so many sources of information and it is hard to know which ones to trust. Some people are criticising the government actions and advice, at the same time as others are lauding them. Contradictory information is everywhere to be found – “Proper handwashing kills viruses effectively.” *TRUE*, “Handwashing doesn’t kill COVID-19, it just kills other things that might make you sick.” *FALSE*.
Who will I choose to believe? I will compare the available sources and see if their advice and information matches up when compared with each other and when compared to what I already know. I will put more weight on the statements of people with nothing to gain other than saving of lives, who have trained for years in their fields in order to be knowledgable (some of whom I know through my work). Amongst others, I will believe our Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr Juliet Gerrard and Dr Siouxsie Wiles (microbiologist at Auckland University). I will not believe a radio talk show host, I will not believe a random FB poster (even if they are my friend!) and I will not believe anything that orange guy from the United States says (thank goodness he isn’t running our country).
And, in the face of all that we currently know, don’t know, hypothesise and fear, I will determinedly believe that, as a collective whole, we can and will weather this storm.