• Megs

Riding the Wave of a Flat Curve.

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I feel a huge sense of solidarity in South Africa right now. I had the same feeling when we hosted the Soccer World Cup in 2010. We were proud to be South African and quite honestly, I feel that right now. I’m so impressed at how quickly our government mobilised and made good, responsible decisions, Cyril’s speeches have been epic, South Africans seem to be in full support of our president and what’s most uplifting of all is that we are succeeding on our joint mission to “flatten the curve”. Epic!

So, we’re in lockdown, we’re all successfully dodging this flying unicellular bug. We all seem to have settled into our new routines, we’ve baked banana bread, we’re rationing our beer and wine, we’ve completed a couple of online workouts and some of us are biding the extra time by learning a new skill. I would say that we’ve done a pretty sterling job at accepting our “new normal”.

We are currently just over a month on from the introduction of COVID19 into South Africa and I really didn’t think we’d have the virus as “under control” as we do at this point. I expected madness, devastation, chaos and a lot of death. I’d expected the hospitals to be overflowing, the number of infected people to have skyrocketed and for our situation to be similar to what we’ve seen on the news, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Are we “winning” this war? If anything, we are definitely achieving our first objective; to “flatten the curve”.

While it’s a relief to know that we are successfully saving lives, there’s a discomfort brewing in me a little more every day as my (and my family’s) economy-contributing and job-creating business(es) are “bleeding”. My business’s Corona symptoms are setting in and a little more of our economy is sliding down a slippery slope into an unknown pit of darkness each day that goes by and we’re locked in our homes.

my (and my family’s) economy-contributing and job-creating business(es) are “bleeding”.

“Economy” is a big word, in the sense that I can’t conceptualise what life might look like with a broken economy. What does life in a “crashed economy” look like? What does rebuilding an economy mean? How will we be affected as individuals? I’ll leave it to the clever finance guys and economy experts to speculate on that because I certainly can’t but I don’t think many of us have even thought that far ahead as there’s enough to digest in the present moment. Not even my trusty side-kick Google spits out any useful answers to “what will life be like after the Coronavirus”.

However, what I do know, is that the length of time that my business is closed is directly proportional to the overall negative impact that the Coronavirus will have on it. I suppose what’s going to determine its survival is how long we can sustain being put on pause? How strong is my business’ metaphorical immune system? So the restless entrepreneur in me asks, “What needs to happen for lockdown to be lifted and for my business to start ticking again?”

We have flattened our curve and slowed the spread but a flat curve consequently also means a wider curve and that the epidemic will be around and affect South Africa and keep my (and my employees) income suppressed for a longer period of time. "Flattening the curve" doesn’t necessarily mean that a fewer total number of people will get sick or require hospitalisation, it just means that fewer people will get sick people and require hospitalisation at any one time thereby making the epidemic easier (and possible) for our medical system to handle.

Our inevitable fate seems to be that "the only way out is through". As a group, we have to eventually face this virus, be exposed to it, get sick (in some cases) & as a group, recover. People (like me & my family) who have recovered from the virus are considered immune (read my previous blog post on “Can You Get Corona Twice?” for clarification on COVID19 immunity) and our immunity helps to “break the chains” of the spread thereby strengthening the human army and achieving our group goal – to stop the spread and get the epidemic behind us.

Our only reprieve from the virus entirely, would be a knight in shining amour (in the form of a vaccine or cure) arriving with his golden sword to slay the dragon! But the current reported timelines for a cure or vaccine don’t sound as magical as a fairytale!

We've "stopped the spread", we've "flattened the curve" and we’re achieving the goal set out by our president and all of the fast acting departments, companies and groups of people but I just wonder what that means in terms of getting over this or through it and whether we're looking at a heck of a lot longer timeframe till we can hit send on the “We are Back Open for Business” emailers we're desperate to send out to our clients?

It seems that we have 2 options/strategies of stopping the spread and/or defeating the virus:

1. Avoid the virus by staying in lockdown and minimising contraction of the virus

2. Increase the number of chain-breaking and immune members of society by facing it head on.

As a business owner as well as being someone who is "immune", I’m naturally thinking whether it’s possible for us to “narrow the curve” and basically get this epidemic behind us.

We’re succeeding at Strategy 1 above but are we doing too well? Can we get through an epidemic by avoidance? And if so, in an economically survivable timeframe? Is it even possible? Or is facing it inevitable and we’re just prolonging the epidemic? Or is COVID19 eminent enough to seep through the cracks no matter how much we try and defeat it through organised government intervention?

South African lives are certainly at the forefront of any national and presidential decision making but when does the well-being of the economy come into the decision-making process? And on an individual level, at what point does a business owner’s fear of losing his company override his fear of the possibility of contracting COVID19?

Well, I suppose that’s the answer right there. This virus has proven to behave in such a way that no one can tell how tough their recovery will be from contracting it, not to mention the logistical complications of being Corona Positive. My family’s story, although we had some scary moments, is one of success in conquering it and because we were infected together, had each other to go through it with and had an incredible support group to make it much easier logistically. No one can guarantee whether that will be the same for them or the next person so the quick realisation is that our only option is to sit tight, along with our businesses, as best we can.

It’s so hard to sit by and not even be allowed to go to our business premises, check on our machines and make sure that our stock is ok. While I worry about what lies ahead, I’ve come to accept that figuring out how to adapt and riding out this wave is going to be far more beneficial to myself, my friends & loved ones, my country and as a consequence, our economy than entertaining the idea of "narrowing the curve" or placing egotistical importance on my business. (“adapting” post coming up once I figure that out!).

Without really knowing what Cyril’s thinking and the details of his decision making (I wish he’d let us into his brain!!), the ultimate goal must be winning the war on the virus and maybe we are actually are!? If Cyril’s well-informed and strategically good decisions continue, maybe we will come out of this with minor nicks & scratches? Wow, wouldn’t that be something to bear witness to!

maybe we will come out of this with minor nicks & scratches?

All I know is that leading us through this must be one heck of a task and a monumental balancing act. And while the decision makers in South Africa are currently rising to the challenge, each of us as individuals are all being hugely affected whether it be the loneliness & pain of being stuck at home in lockdown, the risk and exhaustion of working on the front line, the anxiety caused from watching the news, the devastation of losing a business or the ultimate tragedy of losing a loved one to the virus.

However each of us are experiencing this unprecedented time, our strength is in doing this together and no matter what our rogue individual opinions might be as to how this could be handled driven by our individual struggle, the most important thing is for us to work together as a nation, continue putting faith in our leader, co-operating with the calls that he makes and give our decision makers the best possible chance at winning this war.

“Good times build confidence; tough times build character & adversity build strength”.

My Dad was always big on “character building” and I used to hate every time he said “come on, let’s do it, it’s character building”, because it always had to do with some sort of physically or mentally tough challenge but he was right: “Good times build confidence, tough times build character and adversity builds strength”. Times right now are certainly tough and each of us are being challenged in a different way but if we keep our heads high, stay healthy & stay positive, we can all come out of this with a heck of a lot more character and/or strength than ever before.

With that, I’m adding a few more drops of lavender oil to my diffuser, accepting another day in lockdown and pondering over ways to “adapt” while waiting for the next call from Cyril.


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