I'd take exception to that. On one level, we can't beat the thing till we find a vaccine.

But we've beaten the thing right here, right now in Melbourne. People are dying - in small numbers - and people are catching it. In somewhat larger numbers that are steadily declining.

But that's control. We're coping, it's not going exponential. The lockdown and curfew measures are onerous, but they are working.

The real problem now, as Tim indicates, is that people are under threat of significant economic hardship. Nobody is likely to starve, because we have basic welfare systems in place, but if there's not enough money coming in to pay the mortgage, then that's a problem.

Businesses are closed down, and that sets off a cascade of economic effects. Ultimately the government is reliant on taxes to keep government services working - such as the irksome but necessary police and military presence - but there are limits to how much money can be printed or borrowed to keep everything running.

If things fall apart and people go out to forage or earn on the underground economy or whatever, simply to keep their lives and families together, then the virus has more of a chance to spread. This is one of those rare occasions where government must focus on those on the bottom. Keeping millionaires afloat isn't going to save lives, but finding ways to keep the homeless off the street pays bigger dividends.

We can beat the virus without a vaccine simply by keeping transmission down inside a bubble. But our cities are fragile things, requiring people to get out and mix with others to secure food, which must be harvested and brought in. If our transport and food distribution systems collapse, then we are in deep trouble.

In my line of work, which is travel and tourism, this year has been an unmitigated disaster. As Tim notes, a simple trip to the beach to gaze at the sea from within the car is walking a tightrope. Who wants to be detained by government goons? Things like heading off to Paris for the weekend are out of the question.

We can do without my industry, I guess, but other services are more essential. Like, grocery shops.

Here, the virus is perhaps not beaten completely, but under control. We know how to limit the spread, and eventually a vaccine will be developed. Realistically, it's not an existential threat.

But if the economy slumps, then we have real problems.


Britni Pepper has always enjoyed telling stories. About people, places and pleasures.

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