Well, the world has turned upside down in the past couple of weeks, hasn’t it? I read one sentence the other day that I thought would only ever appear in a comedy: “Please do not come to the hospital if you are ill”. But it’s not a comedy, is it? Unless, of course, you see the humour in people panic-buying toilet paper. Why toilet paper? I’d rather not know. It is a serious situation that we’re in now, but perhaps not just for the obvious reasons.
I don’t want to seem like I’m not taking it seriously, but aren’t we all being just a little bit over the top with all the closures, fear, the ban on people moving from country to country, and the self-isolation? Of course, people are getting sick, and too many have already died; but there is such a wide range of measures being taken in different countries that it looks as if none of them is sure what the best thing to do might be. And that is the case.
A few days ago, CBC Radio had one expert on who pointed out that the regular flu kills 3,500 Canadians every year. We take flu shots, perhaps, but we don’t close down the country to stop the flu spreading and killing so many people. This is partly because we know it isn’t really going to help. Another medical expert on British television stated that, if he had his way, he’d move all the really vulnerable people to a safe place, and then let everyone else mix and mingle and, yes, get sick. Why? Because that way, we could build up natural immunity to the Covid-19 virus, and that would be far better for everyone in the long term.
As it is, as many have pointed out, by isolating ourselves now, we run the risk of the whole pandemic returning later, possibly in the winter, when hospitals and the health system is most stressed. Let me be clear: I agree that precautions need to be taken, especially to protect the most vulnerable, who, we are told, are those over 65 with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes. Now, I fit right into that category, so I am not at all averse to trying to fight the virus, if possible.
There has been such a spate of “statements” coming out this last week, announcing closures and precautions, that an atmosphere of crisis has taken hold, not just here, but around the world. Everything is happening so quickly, that it is hard to get an accurate picture. China, the apparent source of the virus, seems to be recovering from its effects. Italy, of all places, is in complete shutdown. The United States is led by an idiot (it has to be said) who has gone from calling the virus a “Democratic hoax” to calling a national State of Emergency, while all the time claiming it’s under control and should “go away” when the weather warms up.
Even the death rate from Covid-19 is unclear. At one point, it was stated that 10% died, then that came down to 3.4%. Most recently, the stats have been refigured to produce a death rate of just 1%, and that is mostly made up of the elderly. It is generally believed that it will be a year at least before we can look back and learn the necessary lessons about which precautionary steps worked, and which didn’t.
As of Sunday, March 15, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said there were 142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada of which 62 are in Ontario. 1 person has died. PHAC considers the public health risk associated with COVID-19 to be low for the general population. It is, of course, better to be safe than sorry, so it is only right that we take the general precautions that have been recommended: Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have just washed your hands. Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or into your arm, not your hand. Also, make sure to wash your hands afterwards.
But there’s no reason to panic, no reason to stock up on toilet paper and bottled water. The sight of empty shelves in supermarkets only adds to the sense of crisis and does nobody any good. There can be an unfortunate bandwagon aspect to situations like this. People like building up the sense of crisis, to feel that they are part of something dangerous and exciting. Well, we are part of something unprecedented in our lifetimes. The whole world is going through a time of trauma and fear, justified or not. Some of the steps being taken are ridiculous and confused. Others are practical, sensible and will help us deal with things until the world returns to normal – whatever that is.
In the meantime, look out for your elderly neighbours and friends. Make sure they get groceries in and reassure them that they are not alone in this strange atmosphere. And let’s all hope that we really are over-reacting and can laugh at ourselves again one day.