Fighting the panic

Imlisanen Jamir

There’s panic in the air. With COVID-19 cases increasing each day, citizens are reacting in a variety of ways. Some of them are smart, others … not so much.

Panicking in the face of pandemic might make sense in a fictional zombie apocalypse, where 100% of those infected turn into flesh-eating monsters, but selfish and irrational behaviour could very well make the coronavirus outbreak worse for everyone else.

Irrational reactions and hysteria does nothing to help fight this pandemic. It is rather leading to the spread of false information, ostracising of people based on rumours, stigmatisation of infected persons, and unreasonable actions hampering the functioning of essential services contributing to the fight against this pandemic.

Of course, people should be concerned and take extraordinary-but-rational precautions to avoid coming down with COVID-19 — for themselves, but also for others in the community who are at higher risk for serious illness or death, such as elderly people and those with underlying health conditions. And it’s true that health officials have good reasons to be more alarmed by the new virus.

But the reality is that the vast majority of people who get infected will have moderate, mild or even no symptoms. There’s simply no good reason for the masses to freak out. While maintaining personal hygiene, people need to show compassion, rather than distrust and disdain, for those who are infected or are self-quarantining to protect the rest of us.

A lot of this fear comes from uncertainty—uncertainty on where these cases are emerging from, what the current status of health care facilities are, and lack of official clarifications on real time cases and deaths. For months now, mere numbers have been thrown out as official information, giving fuel to the flames of panic already in the minds of the people.

Only recently have State authorities begun to give detailed breakdowns on daily data related to COVID-19. Even these were stopped inexplicably for a long period, before it resumed on Sunday.  Constantly updated information on cases as well as quick moves to address real time reports are required.

It is true that the onus now is particularly on the people themselves to help contain this virus, but authorities must realise that accurate information along with detailed and clear explainers on decisions and protocols will do a lot to help stop this panic.

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