The start of 2020 has undoubtedly been a scary one. So far, we've had a world war scare, a pandemic scare and damn scary nature in Australia and it's not even 1/4 of the way through yet, it sure seems like the end of days, doesn't it. Before I start this article properly though, I'd just to reiterate a point I made a few years ago: the world (probably) isn't ending.
First, the actual scary part.
I wrote this article because I'm a part of a lot of prepper communities and quite a few of my friends and family know that I'm a prepper. That means I am often asked for advice about potential apocalyptic scenarios. In the past, my response has always been, "This will probably blow over, get yourself a few weeks supply of food and water and don't worry about it".
This time, my response has been slightly different, I still do think that it will ultimately blow over but I also think that this time, if you're not prepared, you do need to be a bit worried. If you are under 60 and in reasonably good health, the chances of this doing you any lasting harm are slim to none, but many of us have loved ones who would be very vulnerable to this illness. So my advice today is a little bit more involved:
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Keep in contact with your elderly loved ones but avoid physically seeing them. If you do, do not get too close to them, ensure you have cleaned yourself thoroughly before you go and avoid touching any surfaces.
- Get yourself a few weeks supply of food and water
- If you leave the house regularly, also ensure you disinfect your surfaces regularly.
If you've got those things covered, then there isn't much else you can do, so wash your hands, put the kettle on, make a cup of tea and cross your fingers that this will all just blow over.
I'm still scared. What do I do?
I've always had a saying "If you can't do anything to change things, why worry? If you can do something to change things, why worry?" Worrying isn't a helpful emotion once it gets you past a certain point. There are stories all over the world at the moment of people panic buying toilet paper, pasta and canned food. However, this is not going to help you as the world probably isn't ending and 400 rolls of toilet paper and 5 buckets of pasta are not going to keep you alive and healthy, however, if the people who panic bought left some of the items on the shelves and only took what they legitimately would need for the 2-3 weeks of isolation they might have to go through, there would still be plenty to go around.
So, no panic buying, if you don't have a stocked pantry already then yes, you should go get some food but don't go nuts. Check out my article about how to build a pantry, get yourself a big bottle of thick bleach and buy maybe enough toilet roll to last you for one or two weeks more than you normally would.
What do I do with the bleach?
Firstly, water that stuff down, undiluted bleach is incredibly strong and is way stronger than it needs to be to kill the coronavirus. Water it down to around 1% (which is still stronger than it needs to be but I'd rather be slightly overcautious) and use it to mop your floors and clean your surfaces. Make sure you wear protective gloves and avoid getting any on your skin or in your eyes.
Should I stay indoors?
That's not advice that any one person can tell you, the factors involved in that are dependent on the infection rate in your local area and what the local authorities are doing to keep the virus at bay. I would suggest that you keep an eye on the news as they will inform you if they recommend you practice 'social distancing' and to what level that should be. Once they advise people to start working from home and start shutting schools, my wife and I plan to go into a semi-lockdown. We'll probably still pop out to the supermarket but we'll no longer socialise or go to a crowded place until we hear that it's safe to do so again. That's not the case yet though (7th March 2020) so right now, we're operating as we normally would, in fact, this evening we're going to dinner and the cinema. Even then, the only reason we'd be putting ourselves on lockdown is that due to the nature of our day jobs, we can both quite easily work from home without a problem.
Remember, that if the entire country does this, it will cause more problems than the virus will. We'll possibly have problems with power distribution if power plant workers stay at home, we may have shortages everywhere if truck drivers don't carry out their deliveries of if manufacturers shut down and I'm not looking forward to seeing what happens if the emergency services are operating on a skeleton staff, so the important thing to do right now is to - and I honestly hate myself for saying this - 'keep calm and carry on'.
Social Distancing, what do I do to stay sane?
Ok, let's pretend that the country has advised that people stay at home or that you yourself have decided that it's time to go on lockdown. What can you do to stop going nuts? Well assuming the power is on, it's a great time to catch up on your TV/Movie/Video game backlog. If the power is off or if you are sick of staring at a screen, there are always board games and books. The virus isn't currently airborne either so nobody is saying you can't go outside, go spend a bit of time in the garden or go for a bike ride or a walk. Just remember to wash your hands regularly and avoid contact with other people at that time.
I also highly recommend engaging in a hobby, my wife and I have just bought a painting set and are going to try to learn to oil paint, we're also going to co-write a short story together and there is plenty of DIY to do around the house.
What if it gets worse?
OK, real talk. I try not to speculate on this site as I'm not a virologist, an expert in the art of war or a time traveller from the future so there is no possible way I could offer an accurate picture of what will happen. All I can do is look to the past and see if I can see any patterns. I can say with certainty that this is the worst viral outbreak I've been aware of since Swine Flu but - at least so far - it's not managed to get close to those numbers yet - it very well might and I suspect it might actually get pretty close to or even exceed those numbers.
A lot of people are also comparing it to the Spanish Flu and whist it is an understandable comparison (similar time in the century and a respiratory illness makes it look like a pattern) it's not a valid comparison. Even if the virus mutates into a more dangerous strain and comes back for another wave like the Spanish Flu did, we're medically at lot better equipped than we were in 1918 even our over-the-counter medications are more advanced than what was available to the regular public in 1918. Another important factor is that the First World War played a large part in creating that second, more deadly strain because the people with the mild version stayed put in the trenches and didn't pass it on but the people with the more dangerous strain were taken across the country on trains to hospitals, giving the virus a much better chance of spreading if it was more aggressive. This is the reverse of how viruses normally work.
So, it probably won't get too much worse, sadly I think we'll see a lot of elderly and infirm people fall victim to it, but I find it quite unlikely that it will mutate into a 'world ender' or even get anywhere close to being so bad as to kill tens of millions of people.
Having said that, I have a strong suspicion that the coverage that this virus has got will change our world a little bit, I'm hopeful that people will see this is a wake-up call as to how vulnerable we all are with our current system of decentralised distribution. My hope is that in a few years, we'll look back on this and remember it as a scary year that ushered in the return of locally produced food and drink and restored our high streets and sense of community. Perhaps that hope is only a small one but nonetheless, it's always good to have hope.