Pandemonium is taking hold across the world as we react to the global threat of the Corona Virus now known as COVID-19, and I hate to break it to you, you are already infected. You just may not have recognised the symptoms ….yet.
People are hoarding toilet paper, stocking up on frozen berries, and it has become part of almost every conversation we get involved in. We are at risk of becoming obsessed, if we aren’t already, and can you blame us? The news is filled with COVID-19 stories fed by insights and experts. Then if there is time, other stuff like murders, death and sport will be squeezed into the remaining seconds.
The news is being fed by a never-ending stream of experts telling their own version of doom and gloom or trying to instil a sense of rationality by telling us all to calm the farm. With so many experts spruiking their own reality, it’s becoming harder to distinguish who to believe. This confusion has led to displays of the best and worst of human behaviour. On the positive side are our health care workers on the frontline who have stepped up and are doing whatever they can to protect and care for us, often at the risk to their own health. On the other end of the spectrum are those people, let’s be kind and say they are being driven by fear, whose racism is being exposed as they blame the Chinese people collectively for this virus. Examples of Chinese doctors being avoided by patients, people attacking anyone of Asian appearance, Chinese restaurants closing after being abandoned by their previously loyal customers are becoming more and more common.
No longer are we planning for the zombie apocalypse, now we are in all out war with a microscopic virus destined to take over the world. Cruise ships of the damned are being left to float across the ocean looking for a sympathetic port to dock and offload their infected human cargo. The insidious part of the COVID-19 is not just the impact of the virus on the infected, but it has changed our lives in ways we are yet to comprehend. We are starting to see glimpses of the long-term impacts which include cruising losing its allure, panic overruling logic, businesses being infected with many on track to going under in the coming months, stock markets are in free-fall, house prices look likely to fall, unemployment on the rise and our social infrastructure will be impacted as we self-isolate to avoid contagion. Gatherings such as concerts, sporting events and even cinemas will be less appealing and are experiencing drops in patronage and are at risk of even being ordered to close as the infection progresses. Then let’s not forget the social impact as schools start to be closed, workers being directed to work from home and shopping centres closing. Life as we know it is now starting to look a lot like the world of Walking Dead as we try to avoid infection and transmission.
A recession is two consecutive periods (two quarters) where there has been a fall in economic growth and a depression is defined as a recession, but ultimately much more severe and lasting beyond the six months. Right now it feels like a lot like we are standing on a cliff with a bush fire raging behind us and an earthquake shaking our foundations, pushing us towards the edge. Economically, we don’t have much left in the tank with our interest rates at record lows and many of the usual stimulants having been used over the past couple of years to fight the last economic downturn.
The globalisation of businesses over the past decades is starting to cause unforeseen issues for our local needs. As we enjoy cheaper prices on all sorts of goods including clothes, building supplies, pharmaceuticals, and almost any product you can name, we have become reliant on manufacturing from countries like China, Indonesia and India and their growing middle class has been built off our demand for their products. But with the isolation of workers required to stem the infections combined with COVID-19 apparently being able to survive on surfaces for up to 9 days or longer (I am yet to see a definitive period communicated), these products are being delayed or not shipped. An example that we may yet to experience is that many of the cheaper generic drugs we buy are made in China and packaged in India. If we are not accepting shipments from these regions stock will quickly run out and we will be left to the mercy of the more expensive pharmaceutical companies, relying on their goodwill to keep prices low. Good luck with that! There will be price gouging as we have seen in the face mask industry and no doubt runs on other products will continue. Sure, eventually production will catch up, but the risk is that by then the damage will be done. Our world will have changed.
There will be the obvious casualties with strong businesses failing, jobs being lost, our investments and superannuation being eroded. But even worse will be the long-term effects on us as humans. COVID-19 could lead to other health issues for us. We are becoming more anxious, obsessed about infection, living in a world where we are stressed and as a result of the self-isolation behaviours we are being encouraged to avoid the very thing we need in times of distress; support from other humans. We are being advised to not shake hands, avoid contact and definitely no hugs or kisses. There goes that great European greeting of kissing on both cheeks. We are even being encouraged to avoid social situations with large groups. As humans, we are social creatures and we are being driven into a world where physical interaction should be avoided. Mental health can be referred to as our state of mind and our ability to cope with the events going on around us. Mental health issues can be triggered by factors such as anxiety, stress and obsessing about the things affecting us. When we feel helpless and out of control, this adds to our stress levels and our susceptibility to mental health issues arising. Given the collective reaction of isolation, it would be reasonable to expect an increase in mental health issues as the full impact of COVID-19 is felt.
Researchers have found that habits are changed through altering our behaviour over a period of 6 – 8 weeks and given that the impacts of COVID-19 are being reported by officials as possibly lasting 6 – 12 months, our habits and behaviours will change forever! And where we end up is yet to be revealed, some changes will be small and others will be significant. We can hypothesise and forecast, but like the toilet paper run of March 2020, the future is difficult to predict with complete accuracy. One thing is certain though, we are all going to be infected by COVID-19 in one way or another and our lives, behaviours and habits have already started to change even though we may not be able to recognise the full extent or consequences of these changes.
The best we can do is maintain a rational outlook and try to keep things in context. We don’t panic about the flu which attacks us every year and from all reports has similar death rates to COVID-19. It sucks that COVID-19 is attacking our lives, but we experience similar devastating impacts on our mortality from cancer, flu, malaria and countless other human ailments. The difference is we have had longer to come to terms with these diseases and COVID-19 is a new evil which we don’t fully understand and therefore fear more. We are resilient beings and as long as we keep all this shit in context we probably won’t need all the stockpiles of toilet paper, frozen berries and canned goods we have stored away in our apocalypse bunkers. Hopefully, sanity prevails.
Of course, these are my personal views as a passionate observer of human behaviour and in no way intended to represent the thoughts, research or opinions of any of my clients, past or present. I am not a medical or financial expert and while my first aid certificate will allow me to help you if you need a band aid, it in no way qualifies me to provide medical views or investment advice. I hope you enjoy.