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Risk in the time of a pandemic

We all take risks and in a time of pandemic the risks most of us take are greater. Each time we step outside or run into another person, however inadvertently, we risk either spreading COVID-19 if we are asymptomatic, or catching it from someone else. Should we wear a mask or not? Does it make a difference if we do?

Going to the supermarket, one of the rare occasions these days when the under-70’s get to socialise, can be stressful because I figure if you’re going to contract COVID-19 it’s likely to be at the supermarket. However, at least those under 70 can go to the supermarket. For the over-70s, considered to be a highly vulnerable bunch (not that everyone is of course) the lockdown in the UK and Europe may stay in place until a vaccine for COVID-19 is found. For the rest of the population, it is likely to be lat April or the beginning of April. The US has not been specific about when lockdowns will end, especially for the older person, but the rules are likely to vary by state.

For those people who stay inside, the stress of being cooped up for days and weeks on end with a partner and/or children (or both), and the emotional strain that puts on a relationship may end up with one adult hitting the other –a perfect case of domestic violence.

The other morning while running- my exercise for the day- I met a young man out walking with a glass of orange juice. “I have to get out of the house now,” he said. And that’s in an area where there’s a great deal of space and not many people. I wondered if he were on the brink of hitting someone.


Cases of domestic violence in the UK, Europe and most of the West, have risen significantly since the lockdown, according to newspaper reports. In the West, women and children arriving at refuge centres are also mounting.

Then there’s the financial stress of COVID-19. People all over the world have lost jobs and livelihoods. They might have money in investments or special savings accounts which they are counting on to buy property or a car, for example.

Whatever you decide to do with your money involves a risk. Investments do go up and down. But in this pandemic the financial markets have gyrated more than they did in the last major downturn in 2008. It’s scary.

What does this mean for older or retired people? Maybe their nest egg for retirement has been reduced, thus making them feel more vulnerable than ever. Maybe the value of their property has gone down. Maybe they want to help their children who might themselves be in financial difficulty since they may have been left jobless and homeless? It’s hard to say. Maybe too this is a short-term blip. Society may return to “normal”, whatever that is. Or will it be a “new normal”? It’s a risk for those in government making the decision to lockdown the economy and those working within it.

During this tumultuous time, my anecdotal evidence shows that many more people have requested economic or financial information - if only to understand the economic packages that are coming out from governments aimed at stemming the economic damage that the pandemic has done, Is it better to understand what is being said or is it better not to?

Nowadays, it’s not just investments that are at risk. It’s people’s lifestyles. No one knows what will happen next. The new normal is likely to be weird.

It’s the older person who’s been targeted the most, by all governments, everywhere. They could be locked down for weeks or months, in the UK anyway, and no doubt other countries too. Is this a risk taken by governments that has gone too far?

Photo: by Carole Railton (copyright). "Going to the supermarket on a bus".



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