How are things down under?

The short answer is that it could be worse. Obviously a pandemic is not a good thing and Australia’s main contribution to the world’s response was the embarrassing toilet-paper panic (whose only upside was as a boon for economists looking for metaphors).

New Zealand is still low on actual cases but is implementing a very drastic policy of asking any overseas visitors (except from Pacific island nations) There’s an announcement pending on mass gatherings. Meanwhile Australia has banned from Monday organised gatherings of 500 or more people (with some exemptions) and is asking people not to travel overseas.

Two events from the past are making the current Federal government less disappointing than they could be:

  • The shambolic Federal (and Prime Ministerial) response to the summer bushfire crisis (oh so long ago now) led to very poor poll numbers for the government. You would think they wouldn’t needed that reminder to work out that you have to at a minimum seem to be proactive in a crisis but apparently the lesson was learned. Still less than perfect but Scott Morrison isn’t the hate figure he was in January.
  • The 2007 general election. That election resulted in a Labor government under Kevin Rudd (who had his own severe personality flaws). What that meant was that when the GFC hit Australia went with stimulus rather than austerity. Australia weather the crisis better than most, much of which was due to minerals and China but stimulus helped (not surprisingly because it really should). That led to the received wisdom in Australia that in a crisis the government should spend money. Yes, they should spend more than they are planning but at least they aren’t doing the opposite.

Less good news is that there is currently a shortfall of testing kits but in the cities at least, dedicated covid-19 clinics have been established. Workers on casual contracts losing shifts because of people not going out or because they are unwell or have to self-isolate are being hit hard even though some government benefits can be accessed.

Smaller coastal communities in Australia were heavily impacted by the summer bushfire crisis. Naturally they had hoped for some economic boost from autumn tourism but now they are faced with a general economic downturn and the dilemma of tourists being a possible vector for a viral infection in communities with less access to healthcare.

In the meantime, keep washing your hands and being nice to people.

22 thoughts on “How are things down under?

    1. Toilet paper shortage is an issue all over. On Thursday, I still managed to snag a pack in my part of Germany (nowhere near the epicentre of our outbreak, only a handful of cases), though many stores had already sold out. By Saturday, toilet paper and lots of other stuff (pasta, canned tomatoes, lots of fruits and vegetables) was sold out. Grocery stores and even a DIY stores were packed with people panic buying, because lots of people fear a total shutdown. Even though panic and packed grocery stores are a lot more dangerous than things would otherwise be.

      Today, I went shopping at seven PM, because in the morning the stores were totally overcrowded. I also spent more money than I otherwise would have, because there were things I was running low on that I bought at a higher price at a premium grocery store rather than wait for Monday and go where I usually buy them, because no one knows what will still be open come Monday.


      1. I take it the original cause of panic buying is not fear of shortages, but fear of being locked up in your house and unable to get anything (though once it has started, of course, it gives rise to a vicious circle which is driven by fear of shortages). So in that case ‘everyone has more than enough’ prompts the question ‘enough for what?’ – we don’t know how long we might be locked up for. (Well in the UK, on current policy, we do – and they aren’t actually locking us up anyway. But they might perfectly well change the policy tomorrow.)

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Cam we had mild toilet paper panics here (NZ) – even though, like Australia, we manufacture the stuff! I’m ok with NZ’s response. We have gone from holding at 5 confirmed cases, to 6 yesterday, to 8 today – including the first one where someone traveled to the South Island. A concert I really wanted to go to has been cancelled – but it is the anniversary of the Mosque Attack today, so I’m thinking I should just count my blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, what the heck is up with the toilet paper thing? I didn’t quite believe it until I wandered past the aisle in my local supermarket and saw entirely empty shelves.


    1. I believe there was a genuine shortage (or potential shortage) in Hong Kong. That led to some panic buying in Australia in a few suburbs which led to people hearing that people are panic buying toilet paper and that’s when it took off: second level panic buying due to panic buying.

      News stories about panic buying of toilet paper in Australia then led to panic buying in other countries.


      1. That chain of causation is both fascinating and scary.
        Supermarket shortages in the UK (at least in my area) are loo roll, hand soap, hand sanitiser plus getting fairly low on staple foods like cheap beans, pasta, rice, tinned tomatoes, etc. Apart from loo roll those all make some sense.
        My local supermarket has put a rule of no more than 4 of *any* item (not just the shortage items) and is having to check all self-serve orders to stop people sneaking more through. What’s that saying about civilisations being three meals away from chaos?


      2. At the supermarket yesterday they were out of paper towels and tissues – which makes sense – but last week when the loo-roll madness was high, they had plenty.

        This week, flour and other staples were low and that at least makes sense. I can’t believe toilet paper is still running low.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Panic buying of things we actually produce here, like toilet paper and hand sanitizer abd canned food, is ridiculous and selfish. For my (now hard-to-spend) money, the real issue is not going to be the materiality of the supply chain, it’s going to be the effects of the virus on the labour that keeps it flowing.

        Harumph. ** Turns on heel and goes back down to the book-lined basement **

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I bought toilet paper at once when I saw that one of the possible symptoms was diarrhea. Being at home alone with diarrhea and no toilet paper for two weeks didn’t seem like fun. I bought that and cat food to last for a prolonged sickness. Seemed like a practical thing to do.

    We have had some hoarding in some places in Sweden, but not that much. People tend to be kind of sensible. Except on twitter of course.


  4. Well Australia has adopted New Zealand’s request for all arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days. So events are changing at a rapid rate…

    Stay safe everyone!


  5. As I was leaving Vietnam there were cases of coronavirus literally in the city I was just in (I was going to eat at a restaurant but one of the staff came out to let me know there was someone who’d tested positive for covid-19 and I could come in at my own risk; I chose not to.)

    Within Bali (or at least the weird little nomad/hippie scene) everyone is remarkably calm about it because everyone thinks they’re young and healthy and that’s enough to ward off the virus. I’m not crazy worried about it either really but I’m trying to take sensible precautions. I’d rather not even get the “mild” version if I can help it. Officially though people are starting to get worried, or at least act worried. Some of the restaurants and co-working spaces have started temperature checking customers, and of course there’s that cruise ship that isn’t allowed to dock.

    Last I checked supermarkets and minimarts here are still well stocked and being a South-East Asian country means the toilets all have bum guns attached so nobody’s freaking out about toilet paper. Aside from any virus panic, this is obviously a much more hygienic practice than just wiping your ass with dry paper that I honestly can’t believe it hasn’t taken off all over the world by now.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Regarding the TP, I think it’s hard for anyone to distinguish at a glance between “panic buying” where people are getting way more TP than they would ever use, and just an unfortunate combination of “instead of picking up a week or 2 of groceries per trip, I’ll get 4 weeks’ worth now (at least of non-perishables) so I don’t have to make as many trips” with _everyone deciding to do that at once_.

    Of course there are also some creeps like the guy in Tennessee who bought up all the hand sanitizer in multiple counties so he could resell it at a profit… and then happily did a news interview about this.

    Liked by 1 person

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