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We shouldn't succumb to fears over COVID-19

By Hodan Osman Abdi | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-03-26 09:03

History has shown us, time and again, how existing prejudices about certain people and certain societies are often "medicalized", as historian Erika Lee puts it, in essence blaming certain people coming from certain races or regions for being the source of dangerous diseases due to either an imagined innate unhygienic nature or strange dietary choices.

Most of these anxieties sprout from a similar well-fear.

In the face of large-scale epidemics such as the one the world is facing today, fear is the one thing we should not succumb to. At a time when we should be joining forces to defeat this disease, we should not resort to racial scapegoating and allow fear to divide us.

Disease and calamity do not discriminate. Racist behavior cannot cure disease, nor can it minimize its effects in any way. On the contrary, it could exacerbate problems by isolating whole segments of society that may fear the stigma and racism so much that they might even fail to seek the medical help they need.

Xenophobia is spreading across the globe as fast as the pandemic of COVID-19 is spreading in communities worldwide, maybe even faster. If left unchecked, the repercussions could have lasting effects on generations to come.

Now is the time to address these issues and raise awareness among societies.

At the same time, we should recognize fear for what it is, and not allow it to control our lives.

In this age, where medical advancements have allowed people to live beyond the age of 100, where we use nanotechnology to deliver drugs and treatments within human bodies, and where we have knowledgeable and experienced medical practitioners in every corner of the world, we should not fear COVID-19.

We should rather take it seriously by enforcing all the precautionary practices recommended by experts worldwide. Wash hands regularly, avoid crowded spaces and enforce strict social distancing in case of any mild symptoms.

And stop being glued to the news 24/7. This is one of the biggest sources of panic and anxiety. News media are regaining viewership and rebuilding their status as the go-to media for reliable reporting, especially with the rise in fake news and unreliable reporting on the internet.

Steps must be taken by every part of our societies to stop the spread of fake news and curb its effects. Basic media literacy has become one of the most essential skills people need to learn.

If we want to truly defeat this pandemic, we need to remember the secondary pandemic that is spreading just as fast and could potentially be just as dangerous, if not more.

Xenophobia, and every negative behavior that comes from it, must be fought with the same voraciousness with which we are addressing the spread of the virus worldwide.

Scientists warn us that COVID-19 might just be one of many other pandemics that could derail our comfortable routines and reshape our lives.

If we do not devise effective ways to deal with the sociocultural repercussions that accompany pandemics of these scales, then we might be facing dangers that can threaten the fabric of our societies in ways that are much more severe than biological agents.

As British philosopher Bertrand Russell once said, "Man can be stimulated by hope or driven by fear, but the hope and the fear must be vivid and immediate if they are to be effective without producing weariness."

COVID-19 is not invincible. News coming from China is giving us genuine reasons for hope. The reports of new cases have almost completely diminished within China, and the largest majority of those infected have gone back to their lives with a clean bill of health.

Despite how much life looks as if a doomsday is looming today in some parts of the world, we have evidence that things will get better. So let us allow hope to take over and let go of the unnecessarily vicious fear.

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