The whole world has stopped. What a difference 2 weeks make.
Two weeks ago, I wrote an article how property is back and there is optimism everywhere. That will not be published for a week, but it is too late to change as it has gone to print. Two weeks ago, clients were buying property and planning new houses, bars, doctor’s clinics et al. Two weeks ago, the domestic staff asked if we should stockpile. I laughed and said as long as we have enough, we can get more as the basic supply chains are not affected.
Fast forward and we have an out of date article about to hit the letterboxes, projects being cancelled or put on hold and have a 2nd pantry in a disused wardrobe. And we have shut down.
In addition, all sport and culture has been either cancelled or put on hold until May. I look at how we at Team NZ is managing this and I think we are doing pretty well. We are an island. We have shut our borders. We have developed a language of understanding – words like “community outbreak”, “social distancing” and wash your hands while singing happy birthday twice.
People are working from home or changing habits to accommodate a reduced risk of infection. I have never had so many emails from clients titled “our COVID 19 policy”. And traffic is the best ever. A client told me the usual 35-minute return trip for the school run is now 12 minutes.
Sure, our response is not perfect, which is always easy to say in hindsight, or when you are a talking head looking for easy points. But it seems to be cautious and responding to facts, rather than rumour. At the time of writing we have but one death, which has to be a good measure and the vast majority of our cases are from people returning to NZ or catching it from those sources.
In the US, the cases are still rising at a rapid rate. But the beaches are full, the malls are full, and no one seems to be taking the same precautions as we are or taking it as seriously.
So, I do not fear the virus itself, but I do worry how people are reacting and the economic fallout.
We are trying to smooth out the curve, to lessen the impacts and the possible Italian effect where the elderly have been left to die alone and are going straight from the house to the crematorium. We only have 300 respirators. Once they are fully in use, then those waiting can’t even pay their money to take their chances, they are at the mercy of the virus and their immune system.
All of this is going to impact the economy. We are seeing empty restaurants and bars and the wholesale cancellation of events. Not all of these businesses can survive months without income, not just a reduction of income as would happen in a normal recession. In this case it will be zero income for many. The rent and rates and wages still need to be paid.
And then there is the fear, the fear that puts off all buying decisions until well after the dust has settled. Will I still have a job? Will I be OK? This fear becomes its own virus.
We live from press conference to press conference, stats update to stats update, and until the uncertainty passes, we will sit and wait and that will be the biggest issue we face when all of this is past us. Hopefully this shut down gets rid of the virus but does not kill us another way.
See you all after Easter. Or maybe Anzac Day. Or maybe Queen’s Birthday.