Updated: Mar 5
How would you, if you were a biomedical scientist, reduce the impact of mass manufacturing, coal production and consumption, fashion waste, and global travel on global warming? Maybe I'm a bit imaginative, but I think a highly virulent and deadly epidemic would do it. How could you tell if it is a real virus like HIV, or one designed as bio-terrorism? Motives, targets, means, outcomes.
Let's just imagine that the motive is to reduce or eradicate global warming. How do you reduce global warming on a grand scale? You stop all the main causes of global warming. One of those is global travel using aircraft. This virus has already adversely affected air travel (and in Wuhan, road transport). Another motive might be for demonstrations to end (in places like Hong Kong and Paris), as might be a wish to curtail the might and power of sovereign rule in certain autocracies.
If the eradication of global warming is the motive, then high population and high density countries would probably be on the hit-list, especially beef-eaters. The fact that people from China trade internationally and study outside their own country (which is of great benefit to we Australians), means that China would be a target. This could be true for those who wish to curtail autocratic power, such as in China and Iran.
How do you deliver a novel virus, so it does what you want it to? I'm no biochemist (I realised early in my undergraduate days that it wasn't for me), but I would think that once you choose your targets, then a cursory look at the culture of the target countries would give you some pretty clear means of delivery. You make it virulent and deadly enough to cause panic, but not so bad that it becomes impossible to contain. You don't want it spreading to your own country! Food is a common method of delivery.
So many cases are very localised. What does this suggest? Does it mean they are well-contained, or does it mean that specific individuals have been targeted? I am not saying that we should ignore it all together, because people have (very sadly) died, and they are innocent victims of this. I'm not saying it hasn't been a terrible trauma for many people. But I am saying, it is still contained, to some extent, by public health measures.
How to Protect Yourself
World Health Organisation says this virus is unique. Countries can stop transmission, regardless of how their governments label it (epidemic or pandemic). Our actions, now, as individuals and communities, count. But here are a few things to consider when you are getting stressed about COVID-19.
Practise good hand hygiene: wash your hands, for at least 20 seconds, under warm water. Use soap, rinse completely, and dry your hands with a clean towel. Moisturise skin. If you are using someone else's bathroom or a public facility, don't touch the taps after you have washed your hands - use a towel to turn off the tap, and dispose of it.
Practise good cough and sneeze etiquette: cover your mouth and nose, every time you sneeze or cough, with a tissue, and dispose of it in a bin or flush it down the toilet. Wash your hands (as above). If you have no tissue, use the inside of your elbow to cover your nose and mouth. Never leave your mouth or nose exposed when coughing or sneezing.
When travelling, you might want to invest in a surgical mask and hand rub. Read the instructions for correct use. Hand rub kills most germs that are invisible. If your hands are visibly dirty, wash them (as above).
Remember to keep your nails short and clean, and shower/bathe every day.
Whether you choose to travel overseas or not, is up to you. Just remember, if you plan to travel this year, check to see if your travel insurance covers "pandemic".
And finally, just be aware that there are still people who remember SARS and HIV, and those were devastatingly deadly experiences for them and their loved ones. We need to go gently with how we think about all this. We need to process it so we can manage it psychologically. There are quite a few of us who remember previous economic downturns, recessions and the like. Let's not be too hasty to stock up on canned goods and toilet paper, and let's not go selling all our shares in one hit. We need to tread carefully. Even though I mentioned the possibility of COVID-19 being bio-terrorism (and I'm not the first to suggest it), I really have no proof.
But let me be clear. If this is an act of bio-terrorism, then it is mass murder. And that is beyond shameful. As is the effect on people who are trying to make a living in family businesses and students of our universities.
... there is one, sure-fire way to beat this virus ...
Let's go out and enjoy some dinner at Chinatown or Little Italy! Let's savour the delights of Persian delicacies for dessert! Let's embrace our friends who are feeling ostracised because of this heart-breaking outbreak. Let's kick COVID-19 to the curb!