As everyone deals in their own way with the Covid-19 pandemic, we all face the question of whether to bank on the best or worst sides of others.
Is that stranger on the footpath, in the supermarket, at the café or on the beach going to be considerate enough to avoid possibly infecting you? Or do you have to protect yourself? Will people you come across know to keep at least 2m away, or is it up to you to ensure it happens?
Kiwis are used to having a relaxed attitude with strangers when out and about. But these are strange days.
Official advice has emphasised how we can all do our bit for the greater good: Wash our hands with soap; practice "social distancing"; and mostly stay home.
Graham Medley, a professor of Infectious Disease Modelling, told the BBC that people should act as though they already have the coronavirus. "Don't think about changing your behaviour so you won't get it, think about changing your behaviour so you don't give it to somebody else."
An intensive care doctor at University Hospital Limerick, Catherine Motherway, had a different emphasis. She told RTE that to avoid getting the virus "you need to keep away from other people … prevention in this instance is the best cure … essentially we must treat each other like pariahs, but that's what we have to do".
The evidence here and overseas is mixed as to how co-operative and understanding people have been about the virus.
Citizens have generally complied with drastic new rules causing upheaval to daily life. Surreal photos of normally crowded but now almost empty iconic landmarks and carless motorways have demonstrated that people can obey lockdowns.
Yet, the instances in the West of people hoarding supplies speak to a "me not we" attitude. And media reports suggest that in areas where pubs, bars and restaurants aren't closed by command, people don't voluntarily stay away.
We struggle with social distancing – "keep the gap" would have been a snappier slogan – when it comes to queuing and mingling. Despite the warnings, Florida's beaches still heaved with student revellers. Sydney's Bondi Beach was packed.
Despite canceling all non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people due to the #coronavirus, thousands flocked to Australia's Bondi Beach Friday.— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) March 20, 2020
One beach goer said, "The whole world is probably looking at us right now thinking of what a massive mistake we're making." pic.twitter.com/2TK89otWnr
The idea that we are all in this together is true. Although the odds of suffering a severe form of coronavirus are higher for the elderly and those with underlying conditions, young adults are not immune, and some don't show symptoms. In France, more than 50 per cent of infected people in intensive care were aged under 60. In New York, 56 per cent of those who tested positive were under 50. A US study found the virus can live on plastic and stainless steel for up to three days. We can all get it.
The Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said "the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else".
It's human nature to make the most of things while you can, until such things are taken away. With governments cracking down, there may be less room to make choices in future.
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