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Bill Ralston: Self-isolation? I can do that

For us old hands at working from home, virus avoidance should come naturally.

It’s weird how, just a couple of months ago, we had never heard the term “self-isolating”. I’ve been doing it for the past several years without knowing. Aside from the occasional trip to the supermarket, the wine shop and a quick catch-up with mates, I work from home and I’m perfectly happy in my solitude.

Now, of course, it’s a little more serious thanks to Covid-19 scaring the crap out of everyone, including me.

The supermarket online shopping and delivery service will take care of basic necessities. I can get the wine shop to deliver if I buy more than two dozen at a time. It’s a small sacrifice.

The catch-up with the mates is slightly more difficult, but if they stay a metre away from me, there should be no problem.

Although I am safely insulated from potential Covid-19 infection in almost every way, there is a small flaw in my protection system. My wife. Before the latest restrictions, she insisted on catching flights to Auckland and Wellington, taking buses, cabs and Ubers, having meetings in small rooms with groups of people and generally wandering about breathing in whatever is floating about in the wild.

I threatened to quarantine her to the guesthouse in the garden to ensure my safety. I could provide her meals through the window on the end of a shovel, as I recently saw a waiter doing to cafe patrons somewhere abroad. She pointed out my cooking is vile, whereas hers is superb, and did I want to die hungry or well fed? I promptly caved in.

 

So far, it’s fair to say, the handling of the pandemic crisis by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson has been excellent. Ardern is providing the EQ to keep us calm and Robertson is applying his IQ to ensuring the country isn’t plunged into a combination of the Great Depression and the Black Death.

The Government’s announcements have been well paced in easily digested bite-sized chunks, giving the impression that it is doing all it can to try to limit both the health and economic fallout.

Robertson’s $12.1 billion injection for businesses and beneficiaries, at about 4% of GDP, is audacious and proportionately much greater than the initial stimulus packages of Australia, the US and the UK. The Government will be well aware that its handling of this crisis could mean the difference between winning and losing the September election.

The overall strategy to try to contain the virus is intended to flatten the bell curve of those infected to avoid overloading the health system.

But it’s probably inevitable that Covid-19 will spread through the community and, at worst, we will all be kept at home for weeks or months, as pubs, restaurants, non-essential businesses, universities and schools close, and sports events, concerts and other gatherings cease.

Thank God for Netflix and other television.

This column was first published in the March 28, 2020 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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