Flat White

Coronavirus and the public toilet theory of human behaviour

22 July 2020

7:04 PM

22 July 2020

7:04 PM

Looking around the world, some of the nations first hit by Covid-19 are well on the road to economic recovery and a return to some degree of normality. While social distancing, mask-wearing and other containment measures generally remain in place, people are free to go about their lives, to visit restaurants or go on holiday down the beach.

Through a basic level of compliance and shared concern for the welfare and future of their communities, these nations have managed to restore freedoms to their people and give their economy’s the strongest possible chance of recovery.

Meanwhile, in Australia the vast majority of people are complying with the various state and territory government virus containment rules, wanting nothing more than a return to relative normality. But unlike Taiwan or Vietnam who are well on the road to recovery, there is a sufficiently large minority of people who don’t do the right thing, who have played a significant role in screwing it up for everyone else.

Some in the media have countered this by pointing out that it’s entirely possible that every new coronavirus case in Victoria is linked to the failure of the Andrews government to contain the virus within hotel quarantine, and that none of this would’ve happened without that failure occurring. 


That may be true, but at this point arguing about the initial root cause is rather beside the point, the virus is out in the Victorian community and it’s up to everyone to do their bit to contain it.

If there was a single analogy that sums up the current situation in Victoria it is a public toilet, as strange as it may sound. As long as everyone does the right thing, things are relatively okay.

But like a public toilet, all it takes is a few people doing the wrong thing and all of a sudden everything deteriorates, and there is crap everywhere.

With statistics released by the Victorian Health Department yesterday showing that 53% of people infected with COVID-19 don’t self isolate while awaiting their test results, it’s unsurprising that everything in Melbourne continues to go to crap.

Ultimately with case numbers continuing to rise despite almost two weeks in lockdown, the people of Melbourne not complying with the containment measures need to start, lest the Victorian economy join the health crisis in going down the toilet.

Illustration: Amazon UK.

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