Coronavirus not just a challenge to our health

Coronavirus not just a challenge to our health

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I don't think I'm alone in saying the past fortnight hasn't unfolded as I expected.

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I don't think I'm alone in saying the past fortnight hasn't unfolded as I expected.

As this week's print edition hit the shelves, I thought we'd be going over our coverage plan for the South East Field Days, and putting final touches on our Lucindale site.

Instead, we've been writing about its forced cancellation - along with many other field days, country shows and community events - as the government bans mass gatherings in an attempt to 'flatten the curve' and slow the spread of coronavirus.

I feel like the mood of the nation has changed, and it's become almost impossible to keep fully up-to-date with the situation.

We've seen scores of experts weighing in, and with the overload of sometimes conflicting information, it can be difficult to know what to believe.

What's easy to see is the huge impact the cancellation of events will have on our regional economies. The countless volunteer hours that have been for nothing, the essential fundraising opportunities that have been lost, the sales small businesses haven't been able to make - the value rapidly adds up to millions.

I've never seen anything like it. I remember the economic troubles of the global financial crisis in 2007-08, but even then interest rates were at 3 per cent or above, compared with today's 0.5pc. We can't go much lower.

And, the last global pandemic - Swine Flu or H1N1 in 2009 - barely registered on my radar as a carefree 20-something.

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The scale of the concurrent risk to Australia's population and its economy means this is a whole new ball game. It's even sunk its claws into the nation's favourite pastime - watching, playing or talking about sport.

We could soon be limited to the latter, and the only competition we may see will be in our supermarket aisles, as shoppers battle to clear the shelves of toilet paper. For a country built on mateship, it's become a little too 'every man for himself' for my liking.

As the situation evolves, there remains a broad spectrum of responses - from outright panic and anxiety, to mild concern, ambivalence and those who say it's much ado about nothing.

One month, six months, or even a year from now - whenever this time of uncertainty passes - I really hope its the doubters saying "I told you so" to our health authorities and economic forecasters, and not the other way around, as unlikely as that may be.

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