The fear of the coronavirus disease, officially known as COVID-19, is affecting every single person in the planet that it has practically changed the way people live.
Nowadays, one can’t enter an office building, shopping mall, hotel, school, hospital, etc. without being greeted by a security personnel ready to thrust a temperature scanner on one’s forehead or squirt alcohol on the person’s hands.
Never mind if you have already wiped your hands with wet tissues soaked up in alcohol and gel after boarding a public utility bus, taxi or Grab car. I used to be watchful against pickpockets, but now my vigilance is directed on passengers showing supposed symptoms of the disease, like coughing.
After reading up on COVID-19’s transmission, I make sure to cover my face with a surgical mask so I don’t touch my face, mouth, nose and eyes because it’s one of the best ways to avoid being infected by the dreaded disease, according to the article published by The Guardian.
Afraid to travel
People are afraid to travel for fear of catching the virus in airports, on board airplanes or if they get to land, they might be held up in a country and be forced to submit to health protocols like a 14-day quarantine especially if they passed through the Asia Pacific region like Japan and South Korea, or certain countries in Europe, like Italy.
Flight cancellations hit the travel and tourism sectors so badly that some airlines have folded up while many are on the verge of bankruptcy.
$113B projected loss
According to The New York Times, global airlines are projected to lose US$113 billion in sales if the COVID-19 continues to spread.
The grim scenario sent shivers to hotel and restaurant, land transportation and retail industries. No travellers means no hotel guests, no restaurant diners, no passengers to convey, no shopping, equals loss of jobs and livelihood.
Panic buying is still not happening around us, but people tend to stock up on basic commodities when there’s a crisis to avoid long queues when it’s time to hit the panic button.
Disruptions in school calendars in many Asian and European cities as well as global events across many industries have led to heavy losses and logistical nightmares that one can’t help but be affected if not overwhelmed by anxiety.
According to Quartz, a website that deals with disruptions on the global economy, the spread of the coronavirus has prompted postponements or outright cancellations to global social and professional events.
From the release of the latest James Bond movie, which has been set for April but postponed to November, cancellation of Google conferences that would have assembled the in-person component of its I/O developers and Cloud Next in April, to fashion weeks in Paris, Beijing, Shanghai, and Tokyo — disruptions that are never before seen.
Corona-phobia has prompted the annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to conduct the event virtually instead of in person.
Hajj, communion, soccer matches
Saudi Arabia has temporarily restricted foreign pilgrims from entering the country, preventing millions of Muslims from joining the Hajj in Mecca and Medina.
The Catholic Church is also keen to limit exposure of the faithful to the virus by disallowing communion by the tongue, from now on it should be taken by hand.
The decision of the Italian government to restrict outdoor sporting events also disrupted six soccer matches.
Work from home is now a trend in American companies. Employees embrace the idea since it will limit their exposure to places where there’s risk of contagion.
Handshakes, beso-beso, fistbump
Even handshakes, beso-besos as part of personal greetings are considered risky. Some people opt for fistbump or Namaste, the traditional Indian way of greeting or taking leave (hands placed together, palms upwards with or without bowing one’s head) but no touching please.
Having said all that, is the world suffering from corona-phobia?
According to Jerusalem-based psychologist Michael Tobin, corona-phobia is affecting every single person in his native country Israel. “I am seeing extreme anxiety in patients from across the spectrum. It is extreme panic.”
As a psychologist for 46 years in a country where people have lived through major social and military conflicts, Dr. Tobin said he has rarely seen this “sky high level of anxiety” as he is seeing now from the spread of the coronavirus.
Corona-phobia, fear of unknown
“People are not panicking because of the rapid spread of virus across the world, but rather because they are wired to fear the unknown.”
“It is the fear of the unknown,” Tobin said.
“It is the idea that my life is being intruded on, that anyone I am with can be suspected of carrying the virus and I am vulnerable. When there is a red alert, Israelis are trained to run to their safe rooms, they are known how to handle it.”
In the case of the coronavirus, “there is no safe place. The door handle is a threat, the counter, all public places, your friend.”
Moreover, no one is sure what information they can trust, according to Dr. Tobin.
“There is a lot of information and misinformation and it can be confusing,” he explained. “There are so many unknowns and everyone feeds off at everyone else’s fears.”
“The fear is more contagious than the virus itself,” Dr. Tobin stressed.
Good personal hygiene
As the COVID-2019 wreaks havoc in our daily lives, a key approach is to practice good personal hygiene like frequent hand washing or rubbing hands with alcohol, eating healthily, limit exposure to crowded places and sleeping at least 8 hours daily.
Come to think of it, we grew up with this counsel from our grade school teachers that the mantra is practically embedded in our consciousness. But in the age of corona-phobia, some people talk about it like it is a new playbook for an antidote. /dbs
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