One of the biggest cliches about disasters is that they reveal civilisation as a thin veneer, beneath which lies brutal human nature. From this perspective, the best we can hope for from most people under crisis is selfish indifference; at worst, they will swiftly turn to violence. Our worst instincts must be repressed. This becomes a justification for authoritarianism and heavy-handed policing.
But studies of historical disasters have shown that this is not how most people actually behave. There are nearly always selfish and destructive people, and they are often in power, because we have created systems that reward that kind of personality and those principles. But the great majority of people in ordinary disasters behave in ways that are anything but selfish, and if we’re stuck with veneer as a metaphor, then it peels off to reveal a lot of creative and generous altruism and brilliant grassroots organising. With the global pandemic, these empathic urges and actions are wider and deeper and more consequential than ever.
UK front pages, Thursday 14 May:
More than a billion dollars will be spent by the New Zealand government creating “nature jobs” as part of its a pandemic recovery, including environmental work in regions, but critics expressed dismay there wasn’t more emphasis on climate change.
On Thursday the finance minister Grant Robertson unveiled more than NZ$50bn in recovery funding to get the economy back on track following a seven-week lockdown. Tens of thousands of people have lost work during the crisis, with further lay-offs expected.
Some 11,000 new jobs will be created in environmental work in the regions, conservation minister Eugenie Sage said, with people employed in pest and weed control operations, biodiversity projects and Department of Conservation nature ambassador roles.
As many as 1.5 million seniors live in nursing homes across the country. More than 28,000 of those seniors and their caregivers have died from coronavirus; combined with nursing home workers, they make up 35% of all Covid-19 deaths in the US. Beyond other determinants – region, age, frailty, underlying conditions – one factor could have the greatest impact on elders’ mortality: their caretaker’s ability to effectively do their jobs.
While media attention has focused on the service of doctors and nurses in US hospitals, nursing home workers have remained largely invisible, perhaps because the workforce is made up of America’s most neglected – the majority are women, more than one third are black, almost 20% are immigrants.
The World Health Organisation has warned that coronavirus “may never go away” as its experts predicted that a global mental health crisis caused by the pandemic was looming.
The global health body on Wednesday cautioned against trying to predict how long coronavirus would keep circulating, and called for a “massive effort” to overcome it.
“It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” said Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief.
A report by the WHO’s mental health department to the UN warned of another looming crisis: “The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil – they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” said the department’s director, Devora Kestel. She said the world could expect to see an upsurge in the severity of mental illness, including amongst children, young people and healthcare workers.
Trump dismisses Dr Fauci's warnings on reopening the economy as 'not acceptable'
In case you missed it, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening dismissed comments by Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the coronavirus task force, in testimony at the US senate regarding the dangers of reopening the economy too soon.
Trump told reporters at the White House, “to me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.”
Yesterday, the top public health official contradicted Trump, who urged schools and businesses to reopen and said the White House has set a target of having 100m vaccine doses by the autumn.
Fauci disputed that timeline, indicating that neither a vaccine nor treatment could be developed and distributed in time to facilitate the reopening of schools in the fall.
“I think they should open the schools, absolutely,” the president said on Wednesday.
“I think they should. It’s had very little impact on young people. And I think that if you’re an instructor, if you’re a teacher, a professor over a certain age like let’s say 65 or maybe even if you want to be conservative, 60, perhaps you want to stay out for a little while longer. But I think you should absolutely open the schools. Our country has got to get back and it’s got to get back as soon as possible, and I don’t consider our country coming back if the schools are closed.”
China begins testing every resident in Wuhan
Yesterday we reported on plans by Chinese authorities to test every resident in Wuhan, after a small outbreak was reported this week.State media, People’s Daily, has said the program began yesterday, prioritising high risk populations.It appears the intention is still to test everyone, although a health official told CGTN testing should be selective.Dr Wu Zunyou, an epidemiologist at the Chinese center for disease control and prevention, said he didn’t believe there would be a “second peak” of the virus epidemic in China.
“We have gathered experience in curbing the spread of the coronavirus vin the past three months,” he said. “We won’t let some sporadic cases become another outbreak.”
There is serious concern over the outbreak in Wuhan, despite the small size. He Qinghua from the bureau of disease prevention and control, told a press conference disease control was generally stable across the nation, but there were still challenges.
He said Chinese authorities were still investigating the origins of the Shulan outbreak inthe northeasternJilin province, and he vowed to “make [results] public immediately”.Outbreaks in northeastern provinces near the borders with Russia and North Korea, drew a visit from Chinese vice premier Sun Chunlan this week.
According to Xinhua News, Sun, who is also a member of the CCP central committee’s Political Bureau, toured Heilongjiang province and demanded increased efforts in testing, tracing and treatment.
Suicide in Japan falls by 20% in April compared to 2019, biggest drop in five years
Deaths worldwide near 300,000