Coronavirus is a big deal. Wuhan has been devastated, and over 80,000 people in China are infected. Italy has already been totally quarantined, and there is genuine talk that some UK cities might follow suit. Ironically enough, our own health minister, Nadine Dorries, has been diagnosed with the disease – after spending weeks mingling with parliamentarians and the Prime Minister. We could be talking about an entirely compromised legislature. It’s nothing to be sniffed at.
That said, we seem to be staring down the barrel of two equally unpleasant scenarios. The first is the acceptance of what I’ve just outlined, followed by widespread panic. Supermarkets are already having to ration their supplies because thousands are jumping the gun and anticipating a 1950s bunker-esque, indefinite quarantine, emptying shelves of toilet paper, soap, hand sanitiser and various tinned goods. Needless to say, this is going to make things a hundred times worse. Stockpiling essential hygiene equipment is going to disadvantage those who weren’t as forthright. It will, of course, only spread the virus quicker and make it more severe.
The logical solution is to make plain that, for most people, the virus is no worse than a bout of flu. If most students reading this caught the virus tomorrow, they’d probably be back in full spirits in a fortnight. Yet defusing things in this way leads to our second unenviable option: the ‘I’m alright Jack’, shrug-of-the-shoulders, blasé disregard of how dangerous this virus is to the elderly and those with underlying health problems. If these groups get infected, the consequences could be deadly. They already have been. Making clear the ineffectiveness of the virus on a young, healthy immune system knocks the pendulum to the other extreme, from frenzied panic to selfish disregard. We have swung back and forth relentlessly since the beginning of this crisis, and its part of the reason WHO just declared a pandemic.
Italy is quarantined, China is devastated, and Parliament is compromised. Yes, it’s scary, but the likelihood of anyone reading this dying from coronavirus is minute. Don’t panic and cause shortages, but don’t let that lead you down the path of ignorance, cheap flights and a cheerful disregard of this crisis. With coronavirus, the advice is simple and obvious: just don’t be selfish.
All that being said, an interesting observation to made is how quiet and eerie this year will be. Most sporting events, including the Euros and the Olympics, will probably be cancelled or postponed, along with any other convention or public event. Durham looks like its even going to cancel its final term. If most other universities follow suit, then we’ll probably all have little to do for a few months, maybe longer.
The unique isolation of 2020 is something I’m not looking forward to.
Image Credit: Consumer Reports