“If you think compliance is expensive- try non-compliance.”- General Paul McNutty, Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General
We are currently facing extraordinary times amidst this COVID-19, what Nassim Taleb describes as “Black Swan” events, or should we say the “Black Swan of Black Swans.” Remember that this crisis too shall pass. What we need now is better awareness that leads to better choices which in the end leads to better results. What’s happening now is no less than a large-scale social experiment.
At the time of writing, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has reportedly infected 5,588,356 people worldwide and 347,873 people are deceased. That number need not have been so high. So what lessons can be learnt?
- We have to get over our pre-existing biases. It’s not clear everyone understands the depth of commitment and sacrifice beating the COVI-19 requires. Our success in overcoming COVID-19 requires “a war-like mobilization” of resources including human capital , as well as, restriction in our movements. Officials banned large gatherings, directed people to work from home, and encouraged social distancing. Many see these measures as Draconian- as cities are locked down and cut off from outside visitors, health-care workers seeing at-risk patients are housed away from their families. They wear full-body protective gear, including goggles, complete head coverings, N95 particle-filtering masks, and hazmat-style suits. Make no mistake about it, these measures are key and our compliance crucial to our success in abating the disease.
- We can’t take half measures to combat the coronavirus. Prematurely entertaining an end to social distancing or politicians talking about letting our older generations die off for the sake of the economy are absurd to say the least. This was the case also with the disastrous “herd immunity” mentality. The idea behind herd immunity was that the outbreak would stop if enough people got sick and gained immunity. Once a critical mass of young people gained immunity, vulnerable populations (old and sick people) would be protected. The flaw with this idea was that there was no way to ensure only young people got infected (you need 60-70% of the population to be infected and recover to have a shot at herd immunity). There just aren’t that many young and healthy people anywhere in the world. Moreover, many young people can have severe cases of COVID-19, thus overloading the healthcare systems, and they may event die. This doesn’t even include the possibility of recurrence of the disease- immunity may not even be reliable for this virus.
- We have to learn from successful containment strategies
- Extensive testing:both people with symptoms and people who were asymptomatic were tested whenever possible
- Proactive tracing:if somebody tested positive, everybody they live with was tested or, if tests weren’t available, they were required to self-quarantine
- Emphasis on home diagnosis and care:Health care providers would actually go to the homes of people with suspected Covid-19 cases to collect samples so they could be tested, keeping them from being exposed or exposing other people by visiting a hospital or doctor’s office
- Monitoring of medical personnel and other vulnerable workers:doctors, nurses, caregivers at nursing homes, even grocery store cashiers and pharmacists, were monitored closely for possible infection and given ample protective gear to limit exposure
Behavioural research shows that when we are faced with a threat, we are biologically programmed to seek proximity to our loved ones- just the very thing this crisis stops us from doing. The subsequent result is anxiety, depression, grief and, even denial (at least initially).
The first step we need to acknowledge is not only the loss of lives (sadness and mourning should not be short-circuited) but also our ways of life, which for many includes travel, education, fun, and friendship just to name a few.
COVID-19, even though it appears to be more contagious than the flu, can still be managed by the standard public-health playbook:
- social distancing
- basic hand hygiene and cleaning
- targeted isolation and quarantine of the ill and those with high-risk exposure
- a surge in health-care capacity (supplies, testing, personnel, wards)
- and a coordinated, unified public communications with clear, transparent, up-to-date guidelines and data.
Make no bones about it, get used to this “new world.” Life has been inexorably changed forever, like it was after the AIDS/HIV epidemic in the 1980s and after 9/11 in 2001. There will be more citizen surveillance than ever before and maybe even more nationalist isolation than global solidarity.
In terms of surveillance, China closely monitored people’s smartphones, made use of hundreds of millions of face-recognising cameras, and obliged people to check and report their body temperature and medical condition through webcams. The interesting thing is these same tools can be used by individuals to monitor governments too. The question remains is do we really want these mass surveillance tools? Do will really want governments and corporations harvesting our biometric data en masse?
What’s happening in some countries now would certainly make a mockery of what happened to Cambridge Analytica’s data hacking tactics. Furthermore, these so called “temporary” measures employed by governments during times of emergencies can be longstanding, further compromising our civil rights and privacy rights.
We must ensure that both governments and corporations don’t use our data in ways that violate our rights and silence our voices. We must have control over how our personal information is used, and prohibit its use to build systems that oppress, discriminate, disenfranchise and exacerbate segregation.
A more powerful way of combating the problem as seen by many is by empowering people- changing the fabric of society by giving them control of the situation. This alternative approach was taken by the countries of South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore who empowered their citizens by self-reporting, conducting extensive testing and informing their public by the trusted trio of science, trusted authorities and the media.
What’s equally interesting is what they don’t do. The use of N95 masks, face-protectors, goggles, and gowns are reserved for procedures where respiratory secretions can be aerosolized (for example, intubating a patient for anaesthesia) and for known or suspected cases of COVID-19. Their quarantine policies are interesting too. In Hong Kong and Singapore, when a hospital co-worker or a patient tests unexpectedly positive in a primary-care office or an emergency room, they don’t shut the place down or put everyone under home quarantine. They do their best to trace every contact and then quarantine only those who had close contact with the infected person
Lastly here are some tips that can help you right now during this COVID-19 pandemic:
- Keep things in perspective. This too shall pass.
- Make sure your kids are active, occupied and well-rested. Talk to your kids about COVID-19
- Practice social distancing, but be socially connected.
- Keep your hands to yourself. Self-explanatory really but when you’re outside, try not to touch things. People may have sneezed on their hands and touched the surroundings, and the germs can last for days. When you touch it, and you bring your hands to a mucosal surface (like your eyes, nose and mouth), then you could get the disease.
- Cancel your travel plans. It’s quite risky to travel, especially these few weeks when it’s already spreading to all countries worldwide.
- Create a distraction-free work space at home.
- If you’re in quarantine, don’t stress yourself out. As Epictetus says, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” With the right mindset, people can embrace this as a sanctuary. It’s a good time for people to do things that they normally don’t have time to do because they’re racing around with work, school and taking care of their kids. Try to stay busy with things that bring you some joy
- Stay on top of the latest news, but don’t fixate on it 24/7. Knowing what measures are in place in your local community is important. But it’s not healthy to be watching the news all the time. Turn off the news, put on some Netflix or Stan, read a book, occupy your mind with other things. Life still goes on.”
As Nobel Prize-winning philosopher Albert Camus once said, “In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.’ Winter doesn’t last forever and spring always follows it. We will spring back to normal life, like we’ve always done. Remember that in every crisis lies opportunity. What you practice in private you will be rewarded for in public. This is your private time, this is your time for training, for practice, to prepare for what’s ahead.
“Acting after being asked is compliance. Acting without being asked is kindness.”- Ron Kaufman, Author
Plastic Surgeon BSc, MBBS, FRACS (General), FRACS (Plastics).
Regarded as one of the top plastic surgeons in Australia, Dr. Papadopoulos’ national status is underscored by his election as president of the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) in 2014-2016 and being appointed Board Director and Visiting Professor of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) in 2018.
Dr. Papadopoulos is a specialist Plastic Surgeon known for providing patients with exceptional care from the initial consultation, in the operating room and through to post-operative follow-up. He is the Head of Plastic Surgery at Westmead Private Hospital, as well as, the Founder and Medical Director of CosmeticCulture Clinics in Sydney.
Read about Dr Tim on Greek City Times: