It was disarming to see a large group of teenagers, some with mandatory skateboards, congregated cheek-by-jowl outside the local mall when I cautiously ventured to the supermarket last Friday afternoon.
I figured it was just an anomaly of about 20 local yokels, until that evening’s news showed a crowded beach in South Florida with a youthful yokel telling the television camera: “It’s spring break and we’re here to party, whether we get COVID-19 or not.”
Next up was Sydney’s Bondi Beach in Australia, with hardly a grain of its brilliant golden sand that was not occupied by a young sun-worshipper. On Saturday the TV news had pictures of large throngs on blustery beachfront promenades all around Britain’s coast, enjoying a spring stroll shoulder-to-shoulder. Huge crowds including some Royal Family members attended Cheltenham Races a week earlier, but common-sense had prevailed in most government circles since then. Large groups were outlawed world-wide, as the terms “social-distancing,” self-isolation,” “flatten-the-curve” and “stay-at-home” became part of the global lexicon.
So it came as no surprise when Australia’s Prime Minister and his British counterpart both imposed very stringent new regulations on Monday, March 23.
It’s now illegal to gather in groups more than two anywhere in the UK, where public beaches and parks are closed, businesses except those selling food and medicines are shuttered, as well as bans on weddings, religious gatherings and everything else except funerals. Immediately after the British PM delivered his draconian speech from 10 Downing Street, BBC-TV World Service showed a remarkable chart depicting a total of 233 COVID-19 deaths in UK up to March 21.
There was an identical number in Italy up to March 7, but then the graph climbed steeply to over 6,000 by March 23. Following that ghastly news came encouragement from Taiwan about positive effects of foisting early regulations upon its 24 million citizens. That country had imposed stay-at-home rules — enforced by police and use of cellphone GPS — in early January, right after the virus was discovered in Wuhan, China. Taiwan has flattened the curve to merely 149 COVID-19 cases in total with only two deaths.
We all live and learn through this pandemic, but governments which take strong measures to protect their populations seem to increase chances of saving lives. Strangely, some Canadian politicians already warn that self-isolation is difficult, but I’ve been staying at home alone since my wife died, rarely venturing out except for grocery purchases and medical appointments. If a grieving old fool like me is able to survive self-isolation for over two years, then surely the general population can — for however long it takes.