As our news feeds explode with articles and updates on coronavirus, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and panicky. HuffPost India is compiling a list of some of the best articles that help provide a sense of perspective, and sometimes just help you stay calm, about the pandemic. We’ll keep updating this as we come across more great articles.
HuffPost India’s Betwa Sharma spoke to T. Sundararaman, former director of the National Health Systems Resource Centre, about everything from India’s testing criteria to whether India has enough public health resources to handle the worst-case scenario. Sundararaman makes the crucial point that India still seems to be operating under the belief that there is no community transmission—that “most of the cases are only from contact and imported cases”. So only people who fulfil this narrow criteria are being tested, while others with symptoms such as cold and fever are still being turned away. ” You should not wait for a contact relationship. You should be offering the test much more widely now. A much wider testing would have helped us establish community spread early and mark certain places for social distancing. But once community spread is established, your ability to actually limit that spread is somewhat limited.”
Mattia Ferraresi’s article for Boston Globe went viral over the weekend as he warned the world against reaching the desperate state Italy and its people are in now. “What has happened in Italy shows that less-than-urgent appeals to the public by the government to slightly change habits regarding social interactions aren’t enough when the terrible outcomes they are designed to prevent are not yet apparent; when they become evident, it’s generally too late to act. I and many other Italians just didn’t see the need to change our routines for a threat we could not see,” writes the journalist, who works for the Italian newspaper Il Foglio. Many people with the privilege and choice to do so still don’t seem to have gotten the message—that the best thing to do for your safety and that of others right now is to stay home—and snippets of Ferraresi’s simple, eloquent warning are making the rounds of social media.
For Scroll.in, Rohan Venkataramakrishnan outlines the risks and rewards of the extreme measures India and many of it states have taken already—suspending visas, shutting down schools and colleges— and explains that while this may seem like an overreaction, that’s only because the true have the pandemic can wreak is still not visible yet. He also explains in simple terms why many countries around the world are trying to ‘Flatten the Curve’—basically that if you take care and stay isolated so that the spread of the disease can be slowed down, thus reducing the burden on the healthcare system as far as possible. Some other tips: work from home if you can, educate the people around you, take care of the people working for you, verify information before passing it around.
Yes, there will be an economic fallout from the virus, but Ezra Klein writes for Vox that there will also be a “social recession”—“a collapse in social contact that is particularly hard on the populations most vulnerable to isolation and loneliness — older adults and people with disabilities or preexisting health conditions.” While younger people, and those with more resources, may still find ways to keep themselves entertained and connected, many people whose interaction with others was through religious services and shopping trips may find it especially hard. Like HuffPost India’s Rachna Khaira reported in her article on how to keep older people safe, now may be the time to introduce your grandparents to video-calling and FaceTime.
James Hamblin’s bluntly headlined article for The Atlantic spells out what many commentators have been tiptoeing around—“With its potent mix of characteristics, this virus is unlike most that capture popular attention: It is deadly, but not too deadly. It makes people sick, but not in predictable, uniquely identifiable ways... the new virus may be most dangerous because, it seems, it may sometimes cause no symptoms at all.” He goes on to say that while it is likely that most of us will be infected by the virus, we may not all have it in a severe form. Two weeks before the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Hamblin had concluded that it “must be seen as everyone’s problem”.
For this article published on the University of California San Francisco website, Nina Bai spoke to a psychologist who studies stress to understand why we are feeling so anxious about the virus, and what we can do to manage it. Elissa Epel, who’s based in San Francisco, points out that while being anxious means we are more likely to take steps to prevent getting affected, “when threats are uncertain, such as the current coronavirus situation, our anxious minds can easily overestimate the actual threat and underestimate our ability to cope with it”. If this translates into panic, we could stress out those around us, overstock on essentials and even display xenophobia. Her tips include taking reasonable precautions (yes, that includes washing your hands) and sticking to reliable sources of information.
Buzzfeed News reporter Anne Helen Petersen has a characteristically thoughtful take—it’s unlikely that young, healthy people with resources will suffer or die from the virus, but they still have a responsibility to make sure they don’t affect more vulnerable people. So being “prepared” doesn’t just mean stocking up on rice, cornflakes and sanitizer. “We also have to start thinking about how our habits, our compulsions, and our desire to keep living life completely as usual — because there’s (seemingly) nothing wrong with us — will have ripple effects that will almost certainly lead to other people’s deaths or significant illnesses,” she writes.
There’s more excellent advice in the article, including about helping vulnerable members of your community prepare for a possible lean period.
Pair this with health journalist Vidya Krishnan’s tweet thread on why Indians who have the option should practise social distancing now.
As public health systems around the world creak, the world’s richest people are chartering private planes and locking themselves up in disaster bunkers. Rupert Neate, The Guardian’s health correspondent, writes that many are also taking private doctors and nurses with them to treat them if needed. The report quotes the CEO of an elite private clinic as saying that they offer “the worried wealthy an intravenous infusion of vitamins and minerals to boost their immune systems”. That costs just £350 (around Rs33,000). Note: no vaccine has been developed yet for coronavirus.
It’s important to remember that the first three Indians to test positive for the virus have been successfully treated. Dhanya Rajendran and Sreedevi Jayarajan of The News Minute spoke to two of them about what they did while in isolation (one ate lots of chicken biriyani and joked with the nurses, the other watched movies and studied), remarking upon their proactiveness and self-discipline that not only ensured they healed, but also that they did not pass it on to others. Along the way, they also had to deal with fake news and stigma, but stayed firm throughout. The story is also a testament to the excellent work the Kerala government has been doing to tackle the virus.