Last year in February, a Sydney-based think tank named the Lowy Institute succeeded in scaring shit out of everybody by announcing the theoretical worst-case scenario of a bird-flu pandemic capable of taking 142 million lives. [Click here or on the image to display the CNN article.]
At that time, we Europeans shuddered most, because the mortal H5N1 virus had been detected here in migrating wild fowl. French authorities reacted to this threat in a draconian fashion by outlawing outdoor chicken yards. Meanwhile, people feared that the celebrated recipe of Poule au pot farcie Henri IV might soon become a thing of the past, like roast pheasant. [Click here to display the recipe in French.]
Today, alas, the action has shifted to Australia's playground: the tiny Indonesian island of Bali. Now, I hasten to add that I've never set foot in Bali, and have no immediate plans to go there. Besides, I've never understood what draws young Australian tourists to this place. Wouldn't it be a relatively simple affair, for filthy-rich developers, to create an exotic but safe Bali-like atmosphere in delightful local places such as Bondi or Byron Bay? Or even Yamba or Woolgoolga?
Judging from this morning's press, there's no panic yet in Australia. At the moment I'm writing, Australian health and tourism authorities don't seem to have issued any directives concerning Australian citizens who are already holidaying in Bali, or those who might be preparing to go there. Is this absence of official declarations an indication of calm and clear thinking, or rather a sign of negligence?