April 2020


A month of plague

By Nick Feik

© Stefano Mazzola / Awakening / Getty Images

Voices from the coronavirus outbreak

“Quarantines belong to the Stone Age.”

— Iranian deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi, head of the regime’s coronavirus taskforce, who later contracted the virus along with dozens of other Iranian MPs, Feb 23


“Carnivorous is an anagram of coronavirus. Coincidence? We think NOT!”

— People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), via Twitter


“I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.”

— Marc Lipsitch, Harvard epidemiologist and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, The Atlantic, Feb 24


“We have contained this. I won’t say airtight but pretty close to airtight.”

— White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, Feb 25


“It’s already a shit time of the year. Now it’s just more shit.”

— Nelson Chung, co-owner of Brisbane’s Super Bowl Chinese Restaurant, Broadsheet, Feb 26


“I don’t think it’s inevitable. It probably will. It possibly will. It could be at a very small level or it could be at a larger level. Whatever happens, we’re totally prepared … We know all the good people.”

— Donald Trump, press conference, Feb 28


“It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponised as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump.”

— Rush Limbaugh, conservative radio host, as reported in The New York Times, Feb 28


“Travel bans will no longer be useful or make sense and so health authorities need to prepare for the next phase.”

— Prof. Nigel McMillan, director in infectious diseases and immunology, Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Guardian Australia, Feb 28


“Part of the pandemic plan is ‘hospitals opening their surge capacity’. Now, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but there is no surge capacity … We’ve been saying this for years.”

— Dr Simon Judkins, past president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Guardian Australia, Feb 28


 “We’re ordering a lot of supplies. We’re ordering a lot of elements that frankly we wouldn’t be ordering unless it was something like this. But we’re ordering a lot of different elements of medical.”

— Donald Trump, press conference, Feb 29


“We’re amazingly unprepared.”

— Dr Irwin Redlener, Director of the US National Center for Disaster Preparedness, The New York Times, Feb 29


“We don’t have the testing capacity to find out what’s going on.”

— Marc Lipsitch, Harvard epidemiologist, The New Yorker, Mar 2


“Back in the 1300s, it took around 15 years for bubonic plague to spread from China to Europe; in the 1918 influenza pandemic it took many months for global spread to occur; today we’re seeing global spread in a matter of days and weeks.”

— Andrew Tatem, University of Southampton, The Times, Mar 2


 “I have heard those reports [on the shortage of hand sanitiser] but there are alternatives, strangely enough, known as ‘soap’.”

— Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, ABC RN Breakfast, Mar 2


“A virus is not malevolent. It is the purest form of life there is. It has no cell, no brain and no will. It is a reproduction machine, a sliver of genetic material inside a protective shell, whose sole purpose is to make copies. It does not want to hurt you, it wants to use you. It is not good for it if you die. Corpses, after all, don’t sneeze.”

— Journalist Tom Whipple, The Times, Mar 2


“Quarantine is one of the many waiting rooms of life, and its own special circle of hell for people raised with the illusion that we control our destinies.”

— K.J. Dell’Antonia, novelist, The New York Times, Mar 3


“The Vatican says Pope Francis is suffering from a cold, not coronavirus.”

— ABC News, Mar 4


“A semi-trailer carrying hundreds of rolls of toilet paper caught fire in Brisbane overnight … ‘The main thing is no one got hurt tonight and we’ve been able to save quite a lot of toilet paper,’ fire officer Justin Francis said.”

— ABC News, Mar 5


“We do know that containment is likely to be an unlikely outcome.”

— NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, Mar 5


“A man has been tasered during a violent arrest, after allegedly assaulting staff and a customer in a Tamworth store after a dispute over toilet paper … ‘He was then taken to Tamworth police station,’ a NSW Police spokesperson said, ‘where he is assisting police with their inquiries.’ ”

The Northern Daily Leader, Mar 5


“[The coronavirus is intended] to get rid of non-productive Chinese in the Chinese community who are non-productive and therefore, in the words of George Bernard Shaw, should be eliminated so they don’t have to be fed. Secondly, it is to either export the virus into the United States and other parts of the world or at least fear of the virus.”

— Bronwyn Bishop on Paul Murray Live, Sky News, Mar 6


“We should prepare for a short-term but severe global recession.”

— Nigel Green, chief executive of investment group deVere Group, The New York Times, Mar 6


“Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.”

— Donald Trump, press conference, Mar 7


“Stocks in the United States on Monday suffered their worst single-day decline in more than a decade … Stock markets in Asia and Europe also suffered steep losses. The selling in stocks came after Saudi Arabia and Russia set off an oil price war over the weekend.”

The New York Times, Mar 9


“I’d rather be a rich coward than a poor hero.”

— David Walsh on the cancellation of the Dark Mofo mid-winter arts festival, Mar 11


“When the virus is out there, the population has no immunity and no therapy exists, then 60 to 70 per cent of the population will be infected.”

— Angela Merkel, press conference, Mar 11


 “People who have come in close contact with Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson will now need to self-isolate and quarantine.”

— Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Mar 12


“Mass graves large enough to be viewed from space have been dug near the epicentre of Iran’s coronavirus outbreak, providing further evidence that the death toll could be far higher than Tehran admits.”

The Times, Mar 12


“We are in agreement that this Convid-19 [sic] will not come near our dwelling or our church family. We are praying daily for you, knowing that we are all protected by the Blood of Jesus … all our service will operate as normal.”

— Message to parishioners, Margaret Court’s Victory Life church, Mar 13


“I do still plan to go to the football on Saturday.”

— Scott Morrison, after Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy recommended that gatherings of more than 500 people be cancelled, ABC News, Mar 13


“This morning I woke up with a temperature and sore throat.”

— Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton announcing he tested positive for COVID-19, Mar 13


“After further consideration and the potential for the prime minister’s attendance to be misrepresented, the prime minister has chosen not to attend the match this weekend.”

— Spokesperson for Scott Morrison, Mar 14


Alcindor: “You did disband the White House pandemic office … Officials that worked in that office said the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded. What do you make of that?”

Trump: “I just think it’s a nasty question … When you say ‘me’ – I didn’t do it.”

— Journalist Yamiche Alcindor to Donald Trump, press conference, Mar 14


“We are looking at a situation of at least six months for how we deal with this. It could be much longer than that. It could be shorter. That is unlikely, given the way we are seeing events unfold.”

— Scott Morrison, press conference, Mar 18

Nick Feik

Nick Feik is the editor of The Monthly.


From the front page

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese during Question Time earlier this week. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

Go figure

How did Labor end up with an emissions-reduction target of just 43 per cent?

Image of The Beatles and Yoko Ono during the ‘Let It Be’ sessions. Image © Apple Records / Disney+

‘Get Back’ is ‘slow TV’ for Beatles nuts

Despite plenty of magical moments, Peter Jackson’s eight-hour epic is the work of a fanatic, and will likely only be watched in full by other fanatics

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Declaration of independents

The success of Indi MP Helen Haines points to more non-aligned voices in parliament

Image of The Kid Laroi

New kid on the block: The Kid Laroi

How Australia has overlooked its biggest global music star, an Indigenous hip-hop prodigy

In This Issue

‘Actress’ by Anne Enright

In a theatre setting, the masterly Irish writer considers the melting, capricious line between the truth and the fake

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Read after burning

Do the great philosophers offer guidance for disaster recovery?

Photo of Barnaby Joyce

Inside the Nationals

As the National Party celebrates its centenary, its future is in the hands of bitter rivals Michael McCormack and Barnaby Joyce

Photograph of Australian Securities Exchange

Super heroes or super villains?

How the secretive trillionaire superannuation funds are using your money to reshape capitalism

More in Comment

Image of The Sea of Hands, representing support for reconciliation and the rights of Indigenous Australians

The truth about truth-telling

Revisiting trauma is not the road to justice for Aboriginal people

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Did Federation compromise our democracy?

How the advent of Australia’s national government separated power from people and place

Image of Angus Taylor

Net zero ambition on climate

The charade of Coalition emissions plans

An anti-lockdown rally in Sydney, July 24, 2021

We need to think about post-lockdown rights

Lacking serious debate on the next stage of the pandemic, Australia is ill-prepared

Online exclusives

Image of The Beatles and Yoko Ono during the ‘Let It Be’ sessions. Image © Apple Records / Disney+

‘Get Back’ is ‘slow TV’ for Beatles nuts

Despite plenty of magical moments, Peter Jackson’s eight-hour epic is the work of a fanatic, and will likely only be watched in full by other fanatics

Image of John Wilson in How To with John Wilson. Image courtesy of HBO / Binge

Candid camera: ‘How To with John Wilson’

Both delightfully droll and genuinely moving, John Wilson’s idiosyncratic documentary series is this month’s streaming standout

Image of Clint Eastwood in Cry Macho. Image © Claire Folger / Warner Bros.

Slow motions: Clint Eastwood’s ‘Cry Macho’

Despite patient filmmaking, the 91-year-old director’s elegiac feature is unable to escape the legend of the man

Image of Anthony Bourdain in Roadrunner. © Focus Features

End of the road: The Anthony Bourdain documentary ‘Roadrunner’

Morgan Neville’s posthumous examination of the celebrity chef hews close to the familiar narrative