Camp dropped over for our weekly debrief over a couple of beers. It was my turn to host and l stocked up on some Coronas since I heard that the brand was hurting. Clare let him in but instead of hug gave him a reserved wave from 6ft away. It’s the new intimacy. How will we ever get past this distancing is anybody’s guess. Fact is I don’t like it, coming from a culture where three cheek kisses are customary greetings. We sat down in my upstairs office which has a view of the coastal mountains, Keats and Gambier island but it’s not the same as being in our pub right on the harbour.
It didn’t take Camp long to let me know what’s bothering him. ‘I put away some cash for a rainy day and it’s been raining lot’s lately but now nobody wants my cash,’ he complained. ‘So, what do I do with my filthy, contaminated cash? This bloody virus will turn this into a cashless society.
‘I guess you can bring it to the bank and stuff it into your account. They have to take it,’
I offered, not feeling particularly sorry for my friend over this.
‘The whole reason I have cash is because I don’t trust the banks in the first place. Every time I check my accounts on line I’m relieved to see my money is still there.’
Camp had a point. ‘You need to change your passwords more regularly,’ I said lamely.
‘I hate passwords,’ Camp said, ‘and what happens when I’m demented and unable to remember anything?’
‘You can let Muriel take over your affairs, or myself for that matter. Why don’t you just give me all your cash now and I’ll hide it so nobody can ever find it.’
Camp gave me wary look and then abruptly changed the subject, as I knew he would.
‘This covid-19 pandemic is like the pressure relief valve blew on our unsustainable lifestyle. I’m talking about our modern, jet setting, wine guzzling, gourmet lifestyle, using up carbon deposits and minerals at a furious pace,’ Camp said, and I had to agree with his assessment and analogy.
‘It’s not the hammer of the gods punishing us for our sins but a consequence of foolish human behaviour, like eating wild animals for aphrodisiacs and poultry factories with millions of birds crammed together, as practiced not only in China, which is probably the cause of this virus crossing into humans.’
‘I thought it came from bats?’ I said.
We both looked out at the undiminished view and finished our Coronas. I fetched us another two more bottles.
‘The World Bank has estimated that as much as 90% of the economic damage from epidemics stems from people’s fear of associating with others,’ I said.
‘Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt,’ Camp quoted a well-worn cliché and continued: ‘We now have a substantial drop in traffic fatalities, no planes falling out of the sky and no mass shootings since nobody gathers in churches, mosques, schools or discos. Fewer industrial accidents as well, much less pollution. Do these offset the covid-19 fatalities? ‘
‘I’m no statistician,’ I said, ‘but I bet somebody will write a dissertation on just that subject in the future.’
‘I can’t help thinking about the Native American genocide, brought to these shores by the European invaders and their diseases like small pox, measles, syphilis and the flu which killed over 90% of the indigenous population,’ Camp said, ‘and the natives this time around are again more vulnerable than anyone else. Social distancing does not come easy in remote and isolated communities.’
‘What about the Swedish ‘herd immunity’ approach to Covid-19? Are they completely out to lunch?’ I said. ‘And one can only applaud the South Korean strategy.’ Of course, Camp was awash with opinions, information and numbers.
‘South Korea with 52 million people had over 600 test sites very early on and is testing 20’000 each day with results available within six hours via text. They now have more recoveries than infections and only 175 deaths, achieved without draconian lockdowns and restrictions of movement. The 10 million Swedes also do not have bigger fatality numbers so far than their wary neighbors who have completely shut down. As far as I know, there are still open schools, swimming pools, bars and restaurants in Sweden. Elementary schools and kindergartens are still open.’
‘Germany seems to handle this virus in their usual pragmatic fashion,’ I said. ‘Identify, test, treat and isolate. Merkel, being a former research scientist and having a doctorate in quantum chemistry, identified the virulent nature of this virus earlier than others,’ I said.
‘We also need to measure numbers of deaths as percent of population, since nobody knows how many people are infected, only tested which is the tip of the iceberg. Over 6500 have died so far in the US which has a population of 350 million and millions of people without healthcare, migrants without an address and inner city homeless. Add to that plenty of wide spread health problems like obesity and diabetes. And a guy at the helm that is jumping around like a rabbit from one hot plate to the next. Canada has 175 deaths so far and a 38 million population. Both Sweden and Canada have tax funded, universal healthcare systems, whereas the US system is not focused on health but insurance and ability to pay. They’re in big trouble. The next two weeks will be crucial.’
‘So, you agree with South Korea’s or even Sweden’s handling of this pandemic?’ I said.
‘I say it again: Time will tell. I still maintain that the long-term economic impact will be bigger than the health impact on the world population. This virus also causes isolation and shutdowns, both with dire long-term consequences.’
‘Meanwhile scientists around the world are furiously searching for a vaccine and treatments but in Switzerland, where a lot of the pharmaceutical research takes place, recent animal cruelty laws prohibit animal testing which is crucial to developing a vaccine asap.’
‘Long live King Rat and Mickey Mouse,’ Camp said, finishing his beer.
‘I miss Vicky and Rosy and hope both are ok, I said.
‘Yes, servers and hospitality workers are some of the hardest hit in this time. No work, no tips. No tips, no money.’