COVID-19 Update

My father warned me about COVID-19, the latest type of coronavirus, just after Christmas. Being that I live in Southeast Asia, I was already aware of some of the issues it was causing in China. I was probably one of the few people following it closely outside of health science experts since December, but I didn’t come to realize the devastation it would likely cause until February 27th, which is when I choose to liquidate all of my equity positions. Some of my friends refuted that thinking until mid-March and some of them still do at least for the most part, but COVID-19’s far-reaching effects are undeniable.

It’s been two months since coming to that realization and now many people believe that COVID-19 will forever change the world. I last traveled in early March to both London and Dubai and people were none the wiser. Neither of those cities had governments proactive enough to take precautions against COVID-19 at that time, which was ill-advised given what had happened already albeit in other parts of the world. Having lived through many flu seasons, I had never seen as many sick people as I did in London. I wasn’t counting, but it almost seemed as if 1 in 4 people were in some stage of an infection. I returned from the trip unscathed, fortunately. Until today after reading a message from my close friend, I hadn’t put much thought into the long-term magnitude of COVID-19. Given its breadth, I’d argue that it is the most consequential event since the terrorist attacks against the USA on September 11, 2001. Almost 20 years has passed since then and we still live with constant reminders, which have become the new, accepted normal.

April sucked. Many countries started to implement safety precautions at different times in the latter half of March, but the most new COVID-19 cases and deaths have occurred this month. I, like many others in this part of the world, have been under some degree of lockdown where all non-essential businesses have been shut. I haven’t been remanded to a quarantine facility, fortunately – at least not yet, but a lockdown is essentially a mass quarantine. My hair grew to lengths not seen since my early teens when waiting for my parents to take me to get a haircut once every couple months and I lost a lot of weight, but I have nothing to complain about. I’m healthy and so is everyone that I care about.

I can’t say the same about my family and close friends. Over the last two weeks, five of my family’s and close friend’s family members have been infected with COVID-19 and three of them have passed away. That amount of death in a family is unheard of in such a short timeframe and it’s very upsetting because I think those deaths, and many others, were unnecessary and preventable had people been more empathic. The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a black swan event. Information on its destruction was already readily available. There was enough time to learn from others mistakes. There was enough time to react on an individual level. In hindsight, a quick, stern macro-reaction would have been better than the slow, reactive responses made by much of the world’s leadership. Lives would have been saved and economies would have restarted even faster. But, no one with any power wanted to call for a snow day without snow.

Life is beginning to return to some kind of normal. I went from never wearing a facemask, to wearing a facemask on airplanes only and now to wearing a facemask every time I dare go outside. It felt odd at first, but it has become a daily accessory. Be warned, wearing a facemask frequently and for extended periods of time, say during a 12 hour flight, can be painful around inner back-side of your ears as the elastic straps constantly pull and tug. I found that out after my flights in early March.

As the world returns to some kind of normal, I hope that enough people take precautions for the safety of others, especially for those most vulnerable. I fear for losing my father.

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