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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC RISKS OF COVID-19

Risk of catching COVID-19 while going to work is like driving on a public road. You could die, but with observation and caution, it is safe enough and not worth worrying about a homicidal driver.
Probability of transmission to you of COVID-19 virus particles, from infectious persons, has opaque and complex processes too difficult for you to quantify your chances of infection. If you are a risk adverse person, isolation is a logical response to minimise exposure. But you may be expected to go to work, need to earn, or want not to cringe because learned helplessness is bad for your health.
Nietzsche advocated personal fulfilment by taking risks without consideration for others, as taken up by Hitler and Stalin. A propensity for cavalier response to danger resides in your brain’s amygdala, especially if you are male and under 30 years. If you only have yourself to think about, without consequences for your family, friends and colleagues, or for people who you might unknowingly infect, it is easier to face the risk and forget potential consequences.
Simone De Beauvoir wanted the individual to seek their own existential freedom by respecting others’ freedoms. You could risk going out to free yourself but only after anticipating your responsibilities to others if you became infected.
When your calculations would include medical consequences for yourself and for those you care about, you might fear the worst and prefer isolation. If going to work would have consequences for the business and for your employer, you might remember that all business is inherently risky and the terms of your employment require you to sacrifice freedoms. A utilitarian would expect your decision to go to work to be of practical use to you, such as by earning, rather than to exercise freedom.
Analysis of expected risks can clarify the best course of action to take. There could be clear and present danger from going out, but with insufficient likelihood of incurring costs that would exceed the value of certain benefits you expect.
Because employers and employees have different interests, governments may step in with guidance. They may decide responsibly who to lockdown and who to go to work. They may give financial support. Economy-wide, the amount of relief to be paid by the community could be staggering. The contributions of those who take personal risks may be insufficient to ensure economic survival of a community supporting those who avoid risk. Private risk may not be covered by public indemnity. An individual’s best protection is to be forewarned and free to choose what risks they will or will not take.
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COVID-19 risks need careful consideration

GET USED TO SOCIAL ISOLATION

Social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine in the COVID-19 crisis present you with new experiences of aloneness, without the close involvement with others you are accustomed to. Some humans are more social than others, but many face being alone with unwarranted trepidation. Aloneness is not a pathological condition. Certainly, being alone can expose you to more helplessness from accident or illness, but there are compensations, such as greater freedom and independence. Feeling alone should cease.

Aversion to aloneness can be treated by habituation, similar to a dog phobia. Gradual exposure can reduce fear and you will get used to it, as you would to a barking dog. Throwing yourself into an engrossing task can provide helpful diversion. Plan social contact, such as phone calls, at longer intervals. When you are not lonely, you feel more positive about yourself, more satisfied with life and its opportunities, such as being able to enjoy nature and feel healthy. Solitary living can even become preferred.

The  Roman philosopher Cicero said that he was never less lonely than when he was alone.

Actor Robin Williams said ’the worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone’.

Solitude can have benefits, such as more peacefulness, reading, study, meditation, contemplation, self-expression, artistic creation, independent action. These can be an antidote to anxiety, stress, learned helplessness, anger, depression.

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WILL SOCIAL DISTANCING CHANGE US?

Restrictions on social behaviour could change how we act and think for long after the COVID-19 epidemic ends.

Proxemics is the study of how interpersonal distances and spaces affect human interaction, regulated by body language and communication. Individuals have intimate, personal, social and public zones, at increasing radii. If access to each other’s intimate zone up to 0.50 metres away is denied, intimate interaction would be reduced, affecting particularly relations between family members. Keeping people more than 1.0 metres away would exclude them from the personal zone, with a diminution of correspondence about matters of personal significance, such as observations and opinions. At social distances beyond, out to 4 metres, exchange of acknowledgement, greetings, humorous quips, retorts and peremptory comments are more likely. Further away, in the public zone, information might be broadcast by a speaker, or received by an audience member, without having individual personal content.

Besides reducing transmission of the virus, social distancing will reduce intimacy and personal expression. A role of near-distance interaction is to maintain and build a relationship, with communication of beliefs and negotiation of differences with others. When individuals are less closely involved and have to deal with each other less intimately, with others looking on, there could be winners and losers. Winners could be individuals who prefer to operate alone and at a distance from others without being closely questioned. Losers could be without familiar advice and encouragement from intimate relatives and personal friends who they rely on for satisfying interactions.

Remedial alternatives for social distancing are talking remotely, phoning, texting, messaging, posting on social media, email letter writing, representation by another or even engaging in identity politics. Compared with face-to-face talking and listening in a chat, they lack emotion, spontaneity, nuances, vernacular and inflections. Their communication may be more reflective, cerebral, figurative and empathetic. Consequences of substituting superficial interaction at nearer distances, with more deliberative distant modes, would be significant for well-being, independence and creativity.

Isolation would have different effects.

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