One person sneezes and everyone’s faces grimace, eyes shoot daggers and all of a sudden someone has been labelled patient zero by tourists and travellers who most likely know nothing about virology, epidemiology or public health. This was the scene travelling in the past week, and it’s interesting to say the least.
“This virus is forcing people to not be hugging, kissing, or shaking hands with random people”, my mother, a former public health specialist, says very simply during our discussions about Corona Virus. Besides the scary doomsday visual of random strangers randomly kissing me popping up in my mind, this very simple statement stuck with me throughout that day because it points to so much more about human interaction, trust and safe spaces.
I’ve always been someone who enjoys my personal space, actually I prioritise it. People choosing that one seat next to you, when there are 10 other free ones, annoys me. The one person that decides to get extra close in an elevator, irks me…I like my personal space however I have made peace with the fact that congested transport, babies, airports and that one person you just saw leaving a public bathroom without washing their hands do not care about your space. They simply just continue existing like they all have unless we all collectively understand and act upon the fact that this virus doesn’t discriminate and we all play a part in curbing transmission.
A friend of mine living in Singapore, sent me a message wondering whether there would be any risk associated with heading to a spa given ‘the situation’. At the time there were about 86 confirmed cases in a population of approximately 5.6million (2017), so that wasn’t worrying to me. I sent her the WHO guidelines, told her what I would tell anyone, wear your mask, take precautions including proper hand hygiene, ensure that the surfaces she will be in contact with are properly sterilized and the people working on her practice good hygiene too. Like my mother loves to say “you shouldn’t be embarrassed to speak up if you’re uncomfortable or in danger”…this falls into the latter.
We’re treating each other with such hate and suspicion. One person yelled fire and everyone started pointing to figure out who did it instead of figuring out how to get everyone out safely. People are getting beat up and verbally assaulted. You’ll here a sneeze and think “could it be?”. We’re tip-toeing and this isn’t the way human beings survive or thrive.
In a post-game interview, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp had responded to a reporter who had asked about his opinion and worries about Corona Virus by responding with “people with knowledge should talk about” it. Citing that reporters need to stop asking famous people about politics and the outbreak. Klopp responded to this perfectly in my opinion – people who have no expertise should not be speaking on things this important.
Since the first reporting of the novel corona virus outbreak it has been covered in mainstream media more than Ebola was some years ago. And as much as fear is a natural reaction to something as uncertain and dangerous as this, it is even heightened when people don’t have the right and factual information at hand. Words such as “fear”, “scared” and “killer virus” have been cited in articles. Politicians like Boris Johnson are getting in front of the UK and saying that he shook hands with infected patients and everything is fine. It’s reckless, it’s misleading and at the state where we are at, deadly. The media hold influence over public debate and thought and therefore during an outbreak of a virus or a natural disaster they can curb the social fear or enhance it. The media aren’t covering facts, they are covering people being scared, which will cause more harm.
Fear can make us panic, or do things which make matters worse, like circulating rumours online, hoarding face masks or food, or blaming particular groups for the outbreakPrime Minister Hsein Loong of Singapore
It is understandable that people are afraid, but at a time when we find fake news, deep fakes, reckless reporting etc, it’s better for own sanity and wellbeing to educate ourselves and to read from trusted sources, like professionals in the virology, global health and epidemiology worlds. Scientists. Universities. The WHO.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itselfFranklin D. Roosevelt
This doesn’t mean go out there and be irresponsible to your health, but do not let fear rob you of living and cause you anxieties when there is no need to panic.